Spartan Speaker Series to Focus on Racism, Mental Health, Gender and More, Kicks Off Feb. 10

This semester, the San José State community can take a deep dive into topics such as racism, activism, mental health, gender and identity. The Spring 2021 Spartan Speaker Series at SJSU kicks off virtually on Wednesday, Feb. 10, with comedian, host and producer Baratunde Thurston. The entire series is free and open to the public.

Baratunde Thurston
Deconstructing Racism with Baratunde Thurston

Thurston will give his talk, “How to Deconstruct Racism and Laugh at the Same Time,” at 7 p.m. via Zoom. An Emmy-nominated host who has worked for The Onion, produced for The Daily Show and even advised the Obama White House, Thurston is the author of the New York Times bestseller “How to Be Black.” He’s also the executive producer and host of “We’re Having a Moment”—a podcast examining the intersection of the global pandemic, the fight for racial justice and the spotlight on policing in the U.S—as well as “How to Citizen with Baratunde,” which offers different perspectives on how to improve society collectively.

Student Affairs, who produces the series in collaboration with the César E. Chávez Community Action Center (CCCAC), received requests for speakers focusing on racial justice, journalism and the media. “Baratunde Thurston is a wonderful choice to represent these topics,” says Adrienne Jensen-Doray, assistant director of Student Involvement. “He addresses the social and political landscape in the U.S., as well as trauma and healing. He also provides perspectives on life as an entrepreneur and a podcaster—two topics of interest to many of our students.”

When planning the series as a whole, Jensen-Doray says themes such as “racial justice and mental health and wellness were critical, given the needs and interest of our students and current events. We also considered heritage months, such as Black History Month, Women Herstory Month and Asian, Pacific Islander and Desi American (APIDA) Heritage Month.”

Thurston will conclude his presentation with a Q&A.

Alok Menon

Exploring Gender and Identity with ALOK

Later in the month, Alok Vaid-Menon (ALOK) will serve as the keynote speaker for the 15th anniversary of the CCCAC. In “Beyond the Binary,” on Wednesday, Feb. 24, at 7 p.m., ALOK, a gender non-conforming writer, performance artist and mixed-media artist, will explore themes of gender, race, trauma and belonging. They are the author of “Femme in Public” and “Beyond the Gender Binary.” In 2019, they were honored as one of NBC’s Pride 50 and Out Magazine’s OUT 100.

Since its inception in 2006, the CCCAC has sought to connect SJSU students with civic engagement opportunities that deepen educational experience while promoting a lifelong commitment to activism and social justice, which are at the heart of the legacy of César Chávez.

“As we move into thinking about the next 15 years for the CCCAC and the world, it’s important we bring a keynote speaker that represents a community not often given the platform to influence the next generation of social justice leaders,” explains Diana Victa, department manager of the CCCAC. “ALOK is the best fit because of their leadership in spreading awareness of gender identities, specifically gender non-conforming folx.”

Thea Monyee

Bridging Mental Health and Activism with Thea Monyee

The CCCAC will also present the “A Conversation with Thea Monyee: Sustaining Joy in the Midst of Social Change: Bridging Mental Health and Activism,” on Tuesday, March 2, at 3 p.m. Monyee, a poet and marriage and family therapist, self identifies as a “Black Woman Creative.” She has appeared on HBO, BET, Spectrum, OWN, Fox Soul and TV One, and her work stems from her commitment to healing, which she believes can only occur in a liberated and non-oppressive society.

“It was very important to us to address mental health this semester,” says Jensen-Doray. “Monyee does this through an activist lens, which we hope will resonate with students.”

Simon Tam

Making Trouble with Simon Tam

Finally, the series will conclude on Wednesday, April 14, at 7 p.m. with a talk by Simon Tam. In “Slanted: How an Asian American Troublemaker Took on the Supreme Court,” Tam will share how he helped expand civil liberties for minorities through the unanimous victory of the U.S. Supreme Court case, Matal v. Tam, in 2017. “He offers a unique perspective on identity and justice, as well as the intersection of arts and activism,” says Jensen-Doray.

Tam is the founder and bassist of The Slants, an all-Asian American dance rock band. He also leads the nonprofit The Slants Foundation, which supports arts and activism projects for underrepresented communities. Tam’s talk will include a musical performance, and he will take questions from participants after his talk.


Attendees of any of the talks should register ahead of time in order to receive a Zoom link.

“I hope those who attend multiple events in this series notice the commonalities and prevalence of specific advice—whether it is about forging your own path, building resilience or mentorship and the role mentors have played in our speakers’ lives,” says Jensen-Doray.

She also adds that Student Involvement seeks input from SJSU students, faculty and staff to identify pertinent themes and speakers-of-interest for the 2021-2022 series. Those interested can provide feedback here.

San José State University Ranks Among Top Colleges in the West for Diversity

Diverse students talking on SJSU campus

From most transformative to one of the most diverse colleges in the nation, SJSU has proved itself to be a leader, once again, in preparing students to live, work and thrive in an increasingly diverse global world.

San José State University ranks #8 in the nation, and #6 in the west, in the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education (WSJ/THE) College Rankings released earlier this month. In WSJ/THE 2021 rankings, diversity accounts for 10 percent of a school’s overall score

These rankings measure diversity in school environments based on factors including the racial and ethnic diversity of students, faculty and academic staff, the percentage of Pell Grant recipients and the percentage of international students. 

Public universities’ ability to draw students from across diverse backgrounds, particularly socioeconomically diverse populations, is largely due to their accessibility and affordability to local and low-income students alike. 

“San José State is incredibly proud of its distinction as one of the most diverse public universities in the country,” said President Mary A. Papazian.

“But diversity, on its own, does not necessarily lead to the kind of transformative learning environment we aspire to. Our university’s shared values of inclusion, equity, fairness, and respect for one another—combined with the richness of ideas, creativity and approaches that diversity offers—define who we are at San José State.”

San José State is home to a uniquely diverse environment, in which 41 percent of its students are first-generation college students, 37 percent are Pell Grant qualified and approximately 3,000 are international students. 

In addition, 42 percent of students identify as Asian American, 28 percent identify as Chicanx and Latinx—making SJSU a Hispanic-serving institution—and 16 percent identify as white, 3.4 percent as Black and 3 percent as Indigenous. 

In total, 14 California universities are among the top 20 schools in this category and eight of them are in the California State University (CSU) system. Only one, La Sierra University, is a private institution.

Within a year ripe with uncertainty from the pandemic, intersected by last summer’s protests and debate for racial equality and justice, San José State has been reinforcing its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and addressing systemic racism

“This national recognition of being one of the most diverse campuses reinforces our focus addressing historical systemic inequities, so that the diversity that we are known for translates into equity, cultural and global engagement, and an atmosphere where our students, faculty and staff can thrive,” said Chief Diversity Officer Kathy Wong (Lau). 

“At the heart of this work is building our organizational capacity for change, opportunities to learn, and accountability that reflects our core values of diversity, equity and inclusion. We are thrilled to receive this ranking but know that there is responsibility for continued work.” 

Recent SJSU Success in National Rankings

In August, San José State was named the #1 Most Transformative College in the United States by Money magazine. In a region known for constant innovation—and as the second-largest employer in the 10th largest city in the nation—San José State continually transforms to meet the needs of its students, Silicon Valley and the world. 

The university also embodies the diversity of Santa Clara County and the region. 

“This ranking recognizes SJSU as an institution where first-generation college students from economically challenged communities gain the knowledge and skills to not only enter their careers achieving high salaries shortly after gradation but also having low debt—thereby transforming the lives of their families, communities and their workplaces,” said Wong (Lau). 

In addition, the school’s breadth of academic programs, research and applied learning, and its extraordinary legacy of education and opportunity, perfectly position San José State to examine essential questions facing our community and our world—while incorporating a forward-looking view to solve 21st century problems.

These two rankings reflect San José State’s ability to not only attract and prepare a diverse body of students for success in a global workforce but also to transform the world in which they live.

 

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.”

Vigil for Tree of Life Synagogue

Photo: Muhamed Causevic

Dear campus community,

The SJSU Jewish Student Union, Students Supporting Israel, AEPi, Chabad of SJSU, and Hillel of Silicon Valley will be holding a vigil for the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh this evening at the César Chávez Arch by the Diaz Compean Student Union.

The vigil is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. The entire campus community is invited to attend.

 

 

Spartan Alumna Premieres Feature Film at Cinequest

BY DAVID GOLL

As in previous years, students and faculty from San Jose State University will be well represented at the 2017 Cinequest Film and VR Festival staged at various venues throughout San Jose and Redwood City starting this week.

“Disaffected Youth,” billed as a “punk-rock coming-of-age” film directed by Patrick Mattes and co-written and produced by Jacob Ohlhausen, is a short film produced by Spartan Film Studios.

“I’m very excited,” said Mattes, a December graduate of the university’s Television, Radio, Film and Theatre (TRFT) department, about his film’s inclusion at Cinequest. “We’re both excited. I texted Jake the moment I heard.”

It will be shown as part of the College Shorts program on March 7, at 8:45 p.m.; March 10, at 7:15 p.m.; and March 11, at 12:45 p.m. at the Cinemark Century 20 theater complex, 825 Middlefield Road, Redwood City.

Also selected for Cinequest was “swiPed”, a four-minute, 38-second animated film both humorous and poignant about the detrimental impacts of smartphones on society. It’s the creation of David Chai, associate professor of Design and Animation/Illustration in the Department of Design, whose tagline for the film is: “Texters texting, tweeters tweeting, likers liking, posters posting, Googlers Googling, Amazonians Amazoning, webheads surfing, snappers chatting, pinnters pinning, tubers tubing, tenders tindering, Netflixers chilling — are we binging too much? More connected than ever, but more distant by the day. Is humanity being swiped away?”

Chai was a Silicon Valley smartphone holdout until recently.

“I had a flip phone until last year,” he said. “I don’t want to be emailing when I can be out enjoying life. People have become so disconnected from one another through technology. Even when you are with them, you’re often not.”

Chai’s film debuts on March 3, at 9:30 p.m. It will subsequently be screened March 5, at 1:05 p.m.; March 7, at 4:30 p.m.; and March 11, at 6:45 p.m. All presentations will be at the Cinemark Century 20 in Redwood City.

A 2008 alumna of the TRFT program, Los Altos resident Saila Kariat, will also be represented at Cinequest with her dramatic, one-hour, 38-minute film titled “The Valley” that she wrote, directed and co-produced. The movie will premiere at 7 p.m. March 5 at the California Theatre, 345 S. First St., San Jose. The feature-length film centers on an Indian-American entrepreneur who has an existential crisis following the suicide of his young-adult daughter.

Kariat — who grew up in India, Canada and the United States — said the film project took three years to complete. Professor Scott Sublett, chair of the SJSU’s TRFT department, said Kariat studied film and screenwriting and distinguished herself in student screenwriting competitions before becoming the department’s Valedictorian.

Kariat partially self-funded the production, which cost $500,000, but also attracted several investors. It had a cast of 30 and crew of 35. She said its international cast includes actors from Pakistan, Alyy Khan; India, Suchitra Pillai; and American Jake T. Austin.

For those who miss the premier, “The Valley” will also be shown on March 6, at 4:15 p.m.; March 9, at 9:15 p.m., and March 11, at 4:15 p.m., at the Cinemark Century 20 theater complex in Redwood City.

The annual festival, which has grown dramatically in size and prestige in recent years, provides matchless industry exposure for SJSU film students.

“We want our students to have a professional experience and Cinequest provides a great opportunity for them,” said Barnaby Dallas, coordinator of production for Film and Theatre, and the director of Film Production for Spartan Film Studios, which produced “Disaffected Youth” last summer. “Every year, the film industry comes to San Jose for 10 or 12 days.”

Tickets for events and more information about the Cinequest Film and VR Festival are available online.

SJSU Celebrates Super Sunday 2016

Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’16 MS Mass Communications

Pastor Jason Reynolds (Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’16 MS Mass Communications)

Members of the Emmanuel Baptist Church choir crooned “no weapon they throw at me, you know it won’t prosper, no,” while donned in all black outfits and carrying picket signs reading “Black Lives Matter” during this year’s CSU Super Sunday service.

Super Sunday, part of the California State University system’s African American Initiative, resulted in CSU ambassadors visiting over 72 churches and speaking at over 100 church services in the state to encourage African American youth to pursue higher education.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for the CSU system to remind people that our mission is to aid ordinary people in being successful and transforming their families,” said San Jose State Interim President Susan Martin.

Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’16 MS Mass Communications

Vice President for Student Affairs Reginald Blaylock (Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’16 MS Mass Communications)

Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’16 MS Mass Communications

SJSU Interim President Sue Martin and Pastor Jason Reynolds (Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’16 MS Mass Communications).

Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’16 MS Mass Communications

Vice President for Student Affairs Reginald Blaylock (Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’16 MS Mass Communications)

President Martin, who attended Emmanuel Baptist Church’s service on Feb. 28 along with SJSU Vice President of Student Affairs Reginald Blaylock, stressed the importance of encouraging youths to start considering college at a young age.

“Most of our CSU campuses, including ours, only have three percent of our students identifying as African Americans,” Martin said. “So we need more African American families to prepare to send their children to college.”

Tierney Yates, Social Sciences ’14, said he was only one of three African Americans in his political science program while in his undergraduate career and hopes the initiative will help boost representation in the CSU.

Yates, who serves as the church choir director, said the Black Lives Matter message was incorporated into the musical performances in addition to Pastor Jason Reynolds’ sermons for the month of February in order to bring attention to institutional racism and other issues.

“We talked about issues with community, income and family, so this week we were talking about the issues as they relate to education and disparities,” Reynolds said. “There is so much need for our children to see that knowledge is possible.”

Blaylock, who has served in the CSU system for 28 years, told the service attendees that he was a product of the system’s opportunities.

“My story can be summed up in eight words: ‘It wasn’t supposed to happen but it did,’” Blaylock said. “I came as a freshman over 30 years ago, and CSU and EOP [Educational Opportunity Program] most likely saved my life.”

Despite it being the 11th year that the CSU has organized a Super Sunday with California churches, Blaylock said there is a deep-rooted culture of partnerships within the system.

“There are many people in the CSU who have been doing work and reaching out to communities of color for many, many years,” Blaylock said. “I applaud and celebrate the coordination of these (Super Sunday) efforts, but as a witness today, there are staff and faculty from SJSU that attend this church that are on the scholarship committee and that organize afterschool tutoring, so we’ve been here long before the initiative.”

Yates said he was pleased to see over 20 SJSU or CSU alumni members in the church audience.

“When you’re on a campus of 33,000 students, you feel like you’re the only one,” Yates said. “But when you see it in a smaller setting you can see the impact that it can have and the potential growth that needs to happen.”

 

SJSU Outdoor Adventures Unites Students

Today-Inpost-outdoor-adventures-071014

Backpackers at Hetch Hetchy Damn after trek from Rancheria Falls, Yosemite National Park 2013 (Jay J. Manalo photo).

By Kelly Curtis

Sunset in Hetch Hetchy Valley. Granite hillsides reach toward a lavender sky, pine trees sway in the breeze and tents dot the needle-covered flat at Rancheria Falls backpacker campground. After a six-mile hike, leader Kristine Kirkendall and her group of San Jose State students relax around a fire. They are in Yosemite National Park with the Outdoor Adventures program.

Kirkendall, ’89 Speech Communication, ’11 MA Sports Psychology, is the Associated Students Campus Recreation manager and director of Outdoor Adventures, where students sign up for off-campus trips such as backpacking, kayaking and hiking. The new perspectives gained on these adventures are helping shape a more united SJSU community.

Phil Priolo White Water Rafting 2013 (Phil Priolo photo).

Phil Priolo white water rafting 2013 (Phil Priolo photo).

On her first adventure, senior Janine Tram, learned how much people rely on modern technology. “In nature, people need to do things on their own,” said Tram. “Backpacking in Yosemite taught me it’s hard to live off the land. Now I don’t take home amenities for granted.”

“Experiential learning: take people away from ordinary life, technology and social confines. Make them practice new skills,” said Kirkendall. “Setting up a tent or building a fire for the first time is challenging, but these new experiences grow the whole person.”

Phil Priolo, also a junior, joined Outdoor Adventures because he was seeking more friendship than traditional sports offered. The adventures helped him connect with others because there wasn’t a sense of competition.

“Usually, I’m a wallflower,” Priolo said. “But in an outdoor activity I can be social. It’s a safe environment.”

Kirkendall said social skills are where students grow the fastest. She believes that even though nature is rugged, it’s a place where students don’t feel judged.

“Outdoors,” she said, “students can express themselves. The normal social barriers don’t exist. You have to look people in the eye, speak to them and problem solve.”

On campus, social groups are often founded on cultural differences. Kirkendall acknowledges this is healthy for a diverse student body, but Outdoor Adventures is about uniting the SJSU community.

Erika Ghose overlooking Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, Yosemite National Park 2013. (Kevin Brown photo)

Erika Ghose overlooking Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, Yosemite National Park 2013 (Kevin Brown photo).

“On trips, everyone is responsible for their own food,” she said. “People show up with Taiwanese lettuce wraps or Korean noodles. Someone always has curry. They share everything. Sharing makes a stronger community.”

Erika Ghose, a junior, lost count of her adventures. Her appreciation for what she calls “The Big Quiet,” has helped enlarge her circle of friends.

“On campus, we rarely make deep connections,” Ghose said. “On adventures, I see the other side of people, the raw person. I hear their stories and experience the world with them.”

As if an appreciation for nature, more self-confidence and a greater sense of community weren’t enough, Ghose said the outdoors help her decompress from academic life.

“The Big Quiet,” she said, “is the stillness and peace of nature. I can’t help but sit and listen, which sounds ironic. Who listens to the quiet? It’s something that’s understood away from the city and the chaos, out in the sun and the mountains, surrounded by trees.”

Spartans Best Dance Crew

Entertainment and service go hand-in-hand for Delta Sigma Phi fraternity members, who organized this unique competition showcasing local talent in order to raise over $4,500 for Smile Train. Preparations began months ago. The event was held Nov. 1 in Morris Dailey Auditorium. Read more on the results and this year’s first place team, Attack of Piepan.

Dance Crew Contest Supports Smile Train

Dance Crew Contest Supports Smile Train

Dance Crew Contest Supports Smile Train

Spartans Best Dance Crew, an award winning example of the philanthropic events sponsored by San Jose State’s fraternity and sororities, is back for a second year.

More than a dozen student crews will showcase their best dance choreography 7 p.m. Nov. 1 in Morris Dailey Auditorium. Created by students and organizations, these groups will perform their best choreography before an audience including a panel of judges.

The event is organized by Delta Sigma Phi as a fundraiser for The Smile Train, which provides free cleft surgery to hundreds of thousands of poor children in developing countries, helping the children eat and speak properly.

Last year, Spartans Best Dance Crew raised more than $3,000. This year, the fraternity’s goal is $5,000. Tickets are on sale now at the Event Center ($8 pre-sale, $10 at the door).

Sequester Hits SJSU

Sequester Hits SJSU Science Students

Sequester Hits SJSU

Congressman Mike Honda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Providing Access

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

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

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

The results have been excellent:

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

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

Sequester Hits SJSU

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

Building Mentors

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

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

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

Alumni Association Scholarships

Meet the students who will receive more than $90,000 in scholarships this year from the SJSU Alumni Association.

“I’m grateful to the alumni who support the scholarship program as members and donors. The awards have a transformational impact on the lives of San Jose State students,” said Brian Bates, Alumni Association executive director.

Recipients will be recognized at a reception 4 p.m. Sept. 17 at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library. The Alumni Association has provided scholarships to SJSU students since 1974.

Learn more about the scholarship program. 

Alumni Association Scholarships

Brenda Vasquez received the Starek Family Scholarship (Alumni Association photo).

Living Legacies

Included this year are the inaugural recipients of the Gerald M. Starek Family Alumni Association Scholarship and the Alan and Phyllis Simpkins Alumni Leadership Award.  All told, 42 students will benefit from the support of these awards.

Brenda Vasquez, a transfer student from Cabrillo College, plans to focus her studies in corporate financial management.  She received the Starek Family Scholarship, which is designated for students studying accounting and finance. The $7,500 award is renewable for up to four years.

Jolene Hom, a freshman from Millbrae, is the recipient of the Simpkins Leadership Award. The award was created by the Alumni Association Board of Directors to honor the extraordinary legacy of Alan and Phyllis Simpkins. The $5,000 one-time award goes to an incoming freshman that exhibits tremendous leadership qualities.

Alumni Association Scholarships

Jolene Hom received the Simpkins Leadership Award (Alumni Association photo).

Across the campus, the Alumni Association provides the dean in each college the opportunity to select two recipients for a $3,000 one-time award.

Special Programs

The association’s Santa Cruz Area Chapter provides $20,000 in support to students who come to SJSU from Santa Cruz County high schools or transfer from Cabrillo College. The association has partnered with the San Jose Woman’s Club to recognize their three recipients, as well.

The association also sponsors a student’s participation in the university’s Salzburg Program, which includes an intensive week of study at the Salzburg Global Seminar in Germany and projects on campus that help San Jose State’s diverse constituencies–faculty, staff, administrators and students–become better global citizens.

 

Spartans at Work: Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose

(This summer, SJSU Today hit the road, visiting students and recent grads on the job at summer destinations throughout the Bay Area. Our 2013 Spartans at Work series continues with journalism alumnus Matthew Zane.)

Driving along Highway 87, it’s hard to miss the enormous inflatable character sitting atop a 52,000-square-foot purple building on Woz Way.

That structure is home to Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose, which seeks to inspire creativity, curiosity and life-long learning.

For the last eight years, Matthew Zane, ’07 Journalism, has been helping the museum’s staff think through ways to interact with the region’s multicultural community.

“The experiences that I have had here have been invaluable. One of the main things that I’ve learned is how to multitask and how to keep calm and just drive toward my goals,” he said.

As a communications specialist, Zane works on cross-departmental internal and external communications, participates in outreach, and maintains the museum’s online social media presence.

In his current role, Zane strategizes how to communicate key initiatives such as Children’s Discovery Museum’s commitment to combat childhood obesity through healthy eating and active living. Zane is also helping build the museum’s online community.

“I’m learning how to give our audience and my colleagues’ valuable and useful content for the museum’s news feeds and other social media channels,” he said.

Zane started by working at the museum’s youth program summer camp. He was later hired to work full time running a volunteer program and supervising museum floor staff.

As an SJSU student, Zane learned how to interact with the public and be comfortable communicating with people.

“Looking back on all of the resources and the wealth of ideas and support that SJSU had for their students is just something that really impresses me. I could tell that if you put the work in and you were serious about pursuing a career, there where people there that would help to make that happen for you.”

 

 

Chemistry Major Receives Gilliam Fellowship

Spartan Receives Gilliam Fellowship

Chemistry Major Receives Gilliam Fellowship

Inspired by a professor, Brian Castellano changed majors from nutrition to chemistry, and will soon begin a doctoral program (Christina Olivas photo).

In recognition of his academic interests and service, chemistry major Brian Castellano has received a 2013 Gilliam Fellowship for Advanced Study.

The honor provides $46,500 annually for four years from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which seeks to improve the diversity of college and university faculty members by supporting students from groups traditionally underrepresented in the sciences.

“That’s one of the reasons I am interested in science: There is an unlimited amount to learn and discover, and through mentoring, I am able to help others gain a similar passion,” said Castellano, who will enter a doctoral program this fall.

Castellano arrived at SJSU in spring 2009 planning to pursue a degree in nutrition. Inspired by an enthusiastic chemistry professor and his own interest in cell research, Castellano changed his major to chemistry.

So Castellano joined Associate Professor Daryl Eggers’ research lab, where he started work on the effects of water on binding systems. Castellano currently investigates the role of water thermodynamics on aqueous binding equilibria.

“Brian is one of my strongest students ever,” Eggers said. “When I met him, I knew almost immediately he understood very subtle ideas about our research that would be very difficult for other students, a clear sign to me that he would succeed in PhD programs.”

At SJSU, Castellano has also participated in the HHMI-SCRIBE Program and the National Institute of Health’s Minority Access to Research Careers Program, both of which provided him with financial support so he could flourish academically.

Academic Mentors

“One of the rewarding aspects of being a professor is seeing your students go and do these wonderful things,” Eggers said, adding he enjoys “seeing students grow and be successful after leaving San Jose State.”

Mentoring has also been a major part of Castellano’s experience. He has helped fellow students and is a volunteer organic chemistry workshop facilitator.

Castellano is now looking forward to earning a doctorate degree in biological and biomedical sciences. He has been accepted to doctoral programs at the University of California-Berkeley, Johns Hopkins University, Yale University and the University of Pennsylvania.

Spartans Defend WAC Swimming & Diving Championship

Swimming & Diving Team Wins WAC Championship

Spartans Defend WAC Swimming & Diving Championship

Alli Davis in the 200 IM (photo courtesy of Regina Cunningham).

San Antonio, Texas — Ashlyn Acosta set a San Jose State University record in the 200 yard butterfly and the team’s overall depth prevailed as the Spartans successfully defended their Western Athletic Conference Women’s Swimming and Diving Championship.

San Jose State had 695 points in the team scoring to finish ahead of Northern Arizona’s 688 and Denver’s 631.5 in the nine-team championship. The Spartans now have back-to-back championships after not having any prior to 2012.

“When you have 25 people working together through the season with a common goal, they can do great things,” said San Jose State head coach Sage Hopkins, who was named WAC Women’s Swimming Coach of the Year for the second year in a row. “The depth and strength of our team carried us through the whole season.”

Acosta broke the school record twice on the meet’s final day with a 1:59.86 qualifying round time and a NCAA Championship provisional qualifying mark of 1:59.03 to finish second in the championship final.

The Spartans won the championship without a first place finish in any of the last 13 events on the final two days. San Jose State won the first three relay races and 2012 WAC Swimmer of the Year Marisa DeWames captured the 50 freestyle for the second year in a row during the first two days of the four-day championship meet.

Acosta and DeWames in the 100 freestyle and Amy Kilby in platform diving finished second in their events.

“They (Kilby and Jessica Holden) were humungous,” said co-captain Julia Craddock, who was third in the 200 butterfly final, about the Spartans’ diving contingent. Kilby scored points with a third in the 3-meter and fourth in the 1-meter to go along with her second in the platform. Holden’s fourth in the platform was her best finish in the WAC Championship. “They really, really helped the team and dove extremely well.”

“This is a tremendous team, a tremendous group. I’m very lucky to work with a great group of student-athletes,” Hopkins added.

Get all the results from SJSU Athletics.

Expo 2013 Job/Internship Fair

More than 2,300 students and 120 employers filled the Event Center Feb. 26 for the SJSU Career Center Expo ‘13 Job/Internship Fair. The first job seekers in the door were those who completed the Job Fair Success Webshop, a quick but effective way to learn how to shine while searching for work. A stellar line of employers waited inside, including Cisco Systems, Juniper Networks, IBM, Target, Kohl’s and Yahoo! More than 30 percent offered both job and internship opportunities. Of course the huge benefit of attending a job fair is the human dimension. The SJSU Alumni Association was on hand to greet the many recruiters who were SJSU graduates. It was awesome to see so many Spartans helping Spartans! Didn’t make it to this event? There’s lots more you can do, from a Nonprofit and Public Service Forum to informational sessions and tech talks. To learn more, check out the Career Center’s website.

San Jose Mercury News: Latina Student from Silicon Valley Creates National, Online Mentoring Program

Published by the San Jose Mercury News Feb. 18, 2013.

By Joe Rodriguez

SAN JOSE — Where Stephanie Bravo comes from, the working-class Northside neighborhood of San Jose, the title of “Doctora Bravo” sounded awfully nice in Spanish. And it almost rang true until the bright, over-achieving Mexican-American left medical school.

“Medicine wasn’t playing to my strengths,” she said recently. “It was very trying, because it kept me from doing other things that I was good at.”

One of those things earned her an invitation to the White House and recognition as an up-and-coming Latina leader. She is the founder and president of StudentMentor.org, a free online mentoring service that in fewer than three years has paired 10,000 college students across the country with 6,000 professionals eager to help them set goals and stay on course.

“It’s built like a tech company but with a social mission,” Bravo said at Santa Clara University, where she is assistant director for social media in the office of marketing and communications.

At 27, she has the big brown eyes of a curious student framed by the long, arching eyebrows of a super model, giving her a near perfect look for a millennial generation leader — optimistic, smart and cool.

What separates StudentMentor from traditional mentoring programs is that the students and mentors seldom meet face-to-face. Well, they sort of do on Skype, a video-communication service. Yet, they manage to deal with heavy issues, from choosing careers and finding money for tuition, to coping with outside responsibilities and building the confidence to stay in school and graduate.

“It’s 90 percent online, computer to computer,” Bravo explained with a laugh. “We’re millennials. We grew up using technology. Everyone is on a gadget of some sort.”

Educated girls

Growing up on the Northside, Bravo took free tennis lessons from Don Johnson, an African-American coach from back east who took a young Arthur Ashe under his wing and later helped the late tennis champion establish a nationwide tennis program for disadvantaged kids.

Bravo’s parents found the money for private piano lessons and a piano teacher in the neighborhood. Her grandfather owned El Tarasco Restaurant, a local landmark known for its mural of an ancient Mexican warrior until it was unceremoniously whitewashed after the restaurant closed. After middle school, Bravo boarded buses for the one-hour ride to a white high school in suburban San Jose.

“My mom decided education was important and that her girls needed to go to a good school without violence, drugs and high rates of failure,” Bravo recalled.

But just as the busing ultimately failed to integrate schools or deliver equal education, it didn’t work out personally for the bright, barrio girl. She still remembers being on the outside of a conversation between affluent girls discussing which stylish and expensive Coach purse to buy.

“I felt out of place,” Bravo said. “My whole world had been turned upside-down.”

After transferring and excelling at Lincoln High, a more urban campus, Bravo entered San Jose State. Still undecided about her future, she took special “interest tests” designed to help students find their true calling. She scored high on nursing. Nothing against nurses, but she was a little miffed.

“Forget that! I’m going to be a doctor,” she told herself. “I did not want to take orders. I wanted to be in charge.”

Open the mind

While taking pre-med courses at San Jose State, she joined a mentoring program for minority medical students at Stanford University. She was surprised to meet her assigned mentor, Matthew Goldstein, who was from a rich, Jewish family.

“He was a shock and I had to open my mind a bit,” she said. “But Matthew was just what I needed. He actually prompted my affinity for mentoring. He showed me that mentoring meant getting past your comfort zone, trusting other people for their experience and getting through to a sense of purpose.”

Taking a hard look around, Bravo noticed the high number of low-income, minority students dropping out of community and four-year colleges. Four of five failed to earn bachelor’s degrees by their mid-20s, she said.

After entering the University of California-Irvine medical school she started a similar mentoring program. She was already working online to raise money for orphanages and water projects in Cambodia when the idea of online mentoring popped into her head.

She took a break from medical school and teamed up with Ash Jafari, a partner in the Cambodia effort, to launch StudentMentor.org in October 2010.

“We wanted to bring mentoring to the masses,” she said.

They did, and fast. Latina magazine named her one of 10 “Next Generation Latinas” in 2012. The White House invitation came earlier in 2011. Although they were greeted by President Barack Obama, the two actually spoke with White House insiders and congressmen about the details of the program.

“That’s when the tables turned, with that visit,” Bravo said. “What I was doing had value. I liked it and decided to switch my career to education.”

Valuable contacts

Borrowing from her stereotype-busting experience with Goldstein, StudentMentor does not figure race or ethnicity into the pairing of students with mentors. It does it by field of study, career goals, financial advice and so on.

“I was interested in pursuing a finance career, so I looked for mentors who currently work in the financial services industry,” said Jason Au, a senior at San Francisco State. “I think the difference in background did not matter. All the mentors I got a chance to connect with were all very helpful and able to give me great insights about their careers.”

The online approach appeals especially to busy mentors with hectic jobs or family obligations, or who live far from the students best suited for them.

“Mentoring anytime, anywhere, sounded awesome,” said Joelle Brinkley, a graduate student, wife and mother with a full-time job. “I enrolled because it worked with my schedule but more importantly would allow me to actually have an impact on individuals’ lives in a new way.”

Another mentor, Rachel Collier, misses the face-to-face meetings with students, but going online makes for more frequent contact.

“It’s a simple idea that didn’t exist before,” Collier said. “What a great way to connect with people.”

With such early success, Bravo said she and Jafari are seeking grants to grow StudentMentor. Currently, the program runs on about $350,000 annually, much of that from in-kind services donated by 15 volunteers and paid part-timers.

For now, she’s happy at SCU, a Jesuit college where she can blend her social media skills with Catholic teaching on social justice and equality. She still lives in the family homestead in the old neighborhood.

“I like educating and bringing people together,” Bravo said. “That’s what mentoring is for me.”

 

CNN: Pairing Up to Take the Pain Out of College Search

Posted by CNN Feb. 21, 2013.

(View video.)

San Jose, California (CNN) — At 17 years old, Jessica Perez is an honor student who aspires to be the first member of her family to graduate from college.

But when it came to the application process, she felt lost, alone and ill-prepared.

“I didn’t really know where to start,” said Perez, who wants to be an astrophysicist. “There wasn’t really anybody at home that could help me figure out how I could reach my dream.”

Perez’s grandparents, who raise Perez and her two siblings, both work long hours to make ends meet. And neither continued their education beyond elementary school.

Fortunately for Perez, she was directed by her school guidance counselor to a nonprofit called Strive for College.

“It helps students who don’t really know anything about the college process,” she said. “College students come to you and they tell you how to do it because they’ve been through it also.”

Strive for College pairs high-school students with college students for free, one-on-one consultation over a yearlong period. Each pair works together through the application process for colleges, scholarships and financial aid.

“We take them through every little step of the process, because, frankly, it’s a pretty detailed process — and if you miss one step, you could ruin all your chances,” said Michael Carter, who founded the nonprofit in 2007 while he was a college freshman.

So far, Strive for College has already helped 600 low-income students across the country enter four-year colleges and universities. And it expects to help an additional 900 this year.

Carter grew up in an upper-middle-class suburb of San Jose, California. He attended private school throughout his early childhood, and he remembers his grandfather calling him a “menso” — basically translated to “moron” in Spanish — for claiming everyone in the United States got an equal shot at success.

That pessimism started to make more sense to Carter when he transferred to a public high school in his junior year.

“Going to private schools, a lot of students who didn’t do amazingly academically knew they were going to a four-year college because their parents had gone. It was just a given,” said Carter, 24. “Whereas a lot of students at my public school, even if they had great GPAs and SATs, they didn’t know if they could go to a four-year college. It was just very foreign to a lot of them.”

It didn’t help that there were two guidance counselors for roughly 1,600 students. They just couldn’t devote themselves to students who failed to approach them about college — the very students who Carter felt needed this help the most.

“This made me realize that my grandpa was right, I was a menso,” Carter said. “And it made me firmly believe that this was a problem that was solvable.”

Carter designed a pilot study during his freshman year at Washington University in St. Louis. Pairing his classmates with low-income high school students at a nearby high school, he hoped to prove that college acceptance rates could be dramatically changed.

The pilot’s success was astounding: 24 of the 27 seniors in the study were accepted into four-year colleges. In the previous year, the school’s acceptance rate was only 1 out of every 30 seniors.

“At first it was like, ‘Wow, look at this amazing miracle that happened,’ ” Carter said. “But I quickly couldn’t sleep at night thinking how many of the (students) the year before had earned the right to go (to college) and just no one helped them across the finish line.”

Carter found that his study was indicative of a more widespread problem in the United States.

“There’s over 400,000 low-income high school seniors every year who (are) qualified to go to a four-year college, and for whatever reason they just don’t go,” Carter said.

And the difference between going to college and not going to college can often mean limited career opportunities or growth. Over a 40-year career, college graduates on average make nearly $1 million more than someone with only a high school degree, according to the U.S. Census (PDF).

“When my first (mentee) called me and said, ‘I got into my first college. You helped changed my life,’ I started crying,” Carter said. “I was like, ‘I think I really did help change your life.’ And it was just an amazing feeling.”

With the help of high-school administrators, Strive for College targets youth who attend schools where 50% or more of the students are eligible to receive free or reduced lunch.

To participate, students must have a GPA of at least 2.0. Interested students fill out a questionnaire about their academic and financial histories as well as their interests, abilities and ambitions. Then they can attend a “speed-dating-style” session in which they choose their college student mentor.

Throughout the school year, pairs meet at the high school once a week for an hour. The process takes the students through each step: selecting their target schools, filling out applications, writing essays, obtaining letters of recommendation, targeting scholarships and financial aid, reporting test scores and completing entrance exams.

“As a mentor, your role can be coach, pseudo-parent, cheerleader,” Carter said. “But it’s that amazing near-peer connection of young people with young people … helping them through a process you just went through yourself, and taking the mystery and anxiety out of it, that I think is really important.”

Strive for College also aims to help students graduate with the least amount of student loan debt possible, ensuring stronger graduation rates and enhancing the college experience. With scholarships and financial aid, 40% of Strive students attend four-year colleges without having to come out of pocket for their tuition — compared with 32% of low-income college students nationwide.

Beginning this spring, mentors and mentees will be able to communicate and track progress over the interactive “UStrive” community website. The social network will allow students to track the curriculum’s calendar and see when their peers complete major steps in the application process. Participants can make suggestions and bookmark items of interest for others.

Carter has found that the social component helps students stay on track with their goals.

“It creates peer pressure, but of a rare, positive kind. As they see one another looking at great universities and trying to aim for great financial aid packages, then their peers, their friends also say, ‘If you can do that, I can, too.’ And they start to raise their goals,” he said. “It’s a really powerful process in which you’re building a culture of achievement in the schools.”

It’s a culture that helped Shanna Brancato raise her own academic ambitions. The former foster child had never considered college as part of her future when she was encouraged to attend her first Strive for College session in her junior year of high school.

“I’ve never really thought of myself as the greatest student. College was not on my mind,” she said. “Now I’m a sophomore at San Jose State University. My full tuition is covered, and I’m mentoring a high school student.”

Many former mentees, like Brancato, become Strive for College mentors.

“It’s that ‘paying it forward’ mentality that is building a Strive movement that will solve this problem, I think, within the next decade,” Carter said.

Carter graduated from college in 2010 and has devoted himself full-time to his nonprofit. Strive for College now has 12 university chapters working in 15 high schools nationwide, and it is planning to launch eight more chapters this year.

“The more we grow, the more students we help, the greater our impact, the bigger our movement,” Carter said. “We’ll go from changing hundreds to thousands of lives, to changing hundreds of thousands, and some day soon, even millions.

“I’m so sure this will happen, because I believe in our generation. I know our mentors. I know the students we serve. And I know that together we are going to solve this problem.”

Want to get involved? Check out the Strive for College website at www.striveforcollege.org and see how to help.

 

Working the Pebble Beach Pro-Am

Standouts in their bright red jackets, the SJSU Special Event Management Team once again played a pivotal role in the 2013 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

Despite the super early mornings and long days, these students say the week they spent managing the skyboxes, chalets and on-course food and beverage operations at one of the nation’s premier pro-ams will go down as a highlight of their college careers.

Of the more than 80 Spartans who applied this year, 34 students were selected for this unique, hands-on experience featuring 56 hours of training. Team members came from a wide range of majors including hospitality, recreation and tourism management; nutrition, food science and packaging; kinesiology; and advertising.

Many of the over 240 students and alumni of this eight-year-old program say the lessons they learned combined with the Pebble Beach name have earned them interviews and jobs in the industry, including 60 students and alumni working as temporary or permanent employees right there at the resort, according to Program Director Rich Larson.

For most team members, this was their first managerial experience, overseeing up to 20 workers responsible with providing thousands of spectators with refreshments. Some worked in corporate skyboxes or chalets, while others managed concessions open to the public.

“It’s great to see students succeeding and conquering their fears,” said Pebble Beach Resorts Banquet Manager Mark Hansen, who coaches many team members through a case of the nerves when it comes to interacting with the public and corporate clients.

“I’ve learned there are effective and professional ways to deal with managing people,” student Rebecca Mockabee said.

When it comes to the scenery, the students will tell you the worst day at Pebble Beach will always beat the best day in the classroom! Want to learn more? Check out this super cool video from last year.