Inaugural Economic and Social Impact Report Shows SJSU Contributes $4.1 Billion to California Economy

As the most transformative university in the nation, San José State’s impact on the lives of its students, faculty, staff and alumni is apparent in a multitude of ways. Thanks to a new economic and social impact report conducted by Beacon Economics using 2018-2019 fiscal year data, SJSU’s contribution to the state of California is quantifiable — generating more than $4.1 billion in total economic output for the Golden State. 

As the only public university in the Silicon Valley — a haven for investment in global innovation, entrepreneurship, and cutting-edge technology — SJSU’s return on investment is transformative for the city of San José, the region and the state. For every dollar in state funding, SJSU generates $24 in economic output in California. 

“This report highlights the tremendous value our campus brings to our communities and neighborhoods,” said President Mary A. Papazian. “Our local businesses thrive, our arts districts crackle and our civic pride swells, all due to the tens of thousands of students, staff, faculty members and other university supporters and stakeholders who populate and visit our campus.”

The report shows Spartan pride is present throughout the state, with SJSU supporting 25,462 jobs in California. A little more than 52 percent of those jobs are in the Bay Area — meaning SJSU generates employment opportunities that support the region while also maintaining and expanding existing jobs at other companies through SJSU-related spending. Overall, SJSU generates $2.4 billion in economic output for the Bay Area.

It’s not all about the money

SJSU’s impact is much more than just dollars and cents. SJSU’s true value, a direct reflection of the university’s mission to help students achieve their higher education goals in pursuit of a career, is showcased throughout the 84-page report. 

The university’s student population is 83 percent people of color and 42 percent first generation. As a top seven public school in the West, according to the U.S. News & World Report’s 2021 rankings, underrepresented students are gaining access to a world-class California State University (CSU) education at an affordable rate. This leads to upward social mobility, the foundation of the #1 Most Transformative University ranking by Money magazine.

“With a degree from a university located in the heart of innovation and creativity, students are laying the foundation for generations of their families and communities to not only have their voice be heard but also be the leading voice in important conversations in our world,” said Vincent Del Casino, Jr., provost and senior vice president for academic affairs.

Beacon’s report says, on average, SJSU undergraduates graduate with $15,720 in student debt, less than half the average debt of California college graduates ($34,861). In turn, SJSU graduates are recruited by the world’s most influential companies, some of which are in Silicon Valley.

“SJSU’s alumni demonstrate that spending tens of thousands of dollars more on education is not necessary to achieve success or to work for competitive companies,” writes Beacon in their report. 

“SJSU’s College of Engineering provides more entry-level engineers to Silicon Valley’s Cisco Systems and Apple than any other university, and SJSU’s Lucas College and Graduate School of Business is the largest provider of business graduates to Silicon Valley.”

Local impact is global impact

Undergraduates are also well equipped with research experience as early as their first year of college. SJSU is a top 200 research university in the nation in spending, second in the CSU system. Along with pioneering research collaborations, SJSU’s cutting-edge exploration in areas like wildfires and marine science — through the nation’s largest wildfire research center, the Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center, and Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, respectively — help students begin to transform the world during their time in downtown San Jose. 

“Given the far-reaching nature of Silicon Valley, research done at SJSU on a local level truly has a global impact,” said Mohamed Abousalem, vice president for research and innovation. “Our emphasis on having students participate in research early in their academic careers leads to experience with top-notch faculty that helps prepare them for success once they graduate.”

SJSU’s research, curriculum, and activities are community-centered. Spartans give back in a variety of ways, including:

  • CommUniverCity, which contributed $982,900 worth of community service in one year alone. Since its inception in 2005, CommUniverCity has contributed over $8.4 million in service to the local community, engaging over 115,000 residents directly.
  • Partnerships with the City of San Jose expand arts and cultural resources to city residents through the Hammer Theatre and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library.
  • The Center for Development of Recycling provides research and technical support to the Counties of Santa Clara and San Mateo on their recycling programs. Students contributed over $1.7 million in in-kind services to the counties.
  • Giving community members a second chance at building their lives. The Records Clearance Project (RCP) allows Justice Studies students to provide legal assistance to low-income community members. With a 99 percent success rate, RCP has helped residents remove over $120,000 worth of debt and helped dismiss over 1,600 convictions for more than 550 individuals.
  • The Beyond Sparta program. Beyond Sparta engages all student-athletes with the community to not only provide service, but also provide them opportunities to professionally develop their own skills.

Editor’s Note: Beacon Economics’ full report is available on the SJSU Economic and Social Impact Report website.

SJSU Fire Weather Research Workshop Highlights Advances in Wildfire Prediction and Tracking

Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center

Photo courtesy of the SJSU Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center

California braces for yet another menacing fire season

Twice a month, San José State researchers collect samples from local vegetation, or “fuels”—and what they found for April was foreboding: Craig Clements, director of the SJSU Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center, told KPIX 5 News last week.

“This is the time of year when the fuels should have the most moisture content of the season, and they’re actually the lowest we’ve ever measured for April,” he said in the news report.

But there’s hope: Fire prediction and tracking tools are advancing—a key takeaway from SJSU’s Fire Weather Research Workshop held April 8-9—and the university is leading the effort in providing fire management agencies with state-of-the-art resources to help curb the spread of wildfires.

The virtual event drew hundreds of researchers, students and fire management stakeholders from 20 countries to discuss the latest research and technology on fighting wildfires.

On the same day, California Gov. Gavin Newson announced a $536 million plan to prepare the state for the upcoming fire season. The California Legislature passed the package on April 12, and Newsom signed it April 13.

Intel from above the flames

Once a windstorm and an ignition come together, there’s little to be done.

“There’s nothing you can do to stop that fire,” explained Clements.

The best shot is to try to contain the fire with an “initial attack,” he continued. “That’s where remote sensing technology comes in, because the sooner you can detect the fire, the faster you can get into it.”

WRF-SFIRE is a forecast and modeling system—and a crucial resource to help curb the spread of wildfires—that relies on remote sensing technology. Developed and operated by SJSU, the system pairs data from satellite and infrared imaging with a simulation tool, and it combines a weather forecast model (Weather Research Forecast) with a fire-spread model (SFIRE).

During the workshop, faculty shared updates on WRF-SFIRE, including the addition of wildfire smoke dispersion forecasts, improved data input and analysis, more options for running simulations, and even a mobile-friendly interface.

Adam Kochanski, assistant professor of wildfire modeling, shared how WRF-SFIRE now can model smoke behavior based on fire-spread predictions.

Adam Kochanski, assistant professor of wildfire modeling, shared how WRF-SFIRE now can model smoke behavior based on fire-spread predictions.

But while tracking and prediction technology is advancing, not enough satellite and infrared imaging data is being gathered in day-to-day fire management operations, noted Miguel Valero Peréz, assistant professor of wildfire behavior and remote sensing at SJSU. He said that bringing that process up to speed is crucial and requires widespread collaboration.

“We need to collaborate with everyone—fire management agencies, academia, industry. We can only solve this problem if we work together,” Valero Peréz emphasized.

Solving a bigger problem

Newsom’s package may be able to help the state get ahead of the game as another dangerous fire season approaches. His plan provides funding to invest in workforce training, vegetation and terrain management, home protection and more.

But the effort to track conditions needs to be year-round, Clements told NBC Bay Area News.

“We need to be doing predictions for the conditions that would lead up to a severe fire season, so using the state-of-the-science modeling we have at San José State and running that operationally throughout the whole season versus a fire here and a fire there like we usually do,” he explained on the news report.

Joaquin Ramirez is principal consultant with Technosylva, Inc., a wildfire technology company that partners with SJSU by using WRF-SFIRE to assist management agencies like Cal Fire during fire season. In 2020, they offered Cal Fire support with more than 9,000 fires.

Wildfires in 2020 California

Joaquin Ramirez of Technosylva, Inc., a wildfire technology company, provided a look back at 2020 fires in California.

He said the workshop is proof of the exciting research and technology in progress, but that there’s still much to do when it comes to solving the wider problem.

“An all-hands job is needed, starting from supporting citizens that understand that we have to live with fire in a smarter way—and that we need to support scientists as much as we support our firefighters.”

A community service

Clements said that while the workshop is about exchanging research and ideas, it’s also about providing information directly to those fighting fires on the front lines.

Because it’s free and several topics are covered in a shorter amount of time, it can be a good alternative to a conference, which might not always be an option for fire management agency employees.

“It’s part of our service to the community to host this workshop and to have it to be free to anyone,” he explained. “It’s about accessibility to the knowledge.”

WRF-SFIRE is available on mobile platforms

WRF-SFIRE is now accessible on mobile devices, a new addition to the system by wildfire researchers at SJSU.

Martin Kurtovich, senior utilities engineer for California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), said their staff participated to engage on important fire science topics—particularly wildfire modeling and predictions for forecasting future fire conditions.

He added, “I appreciate the important work being done at SJSU in not only conducting important research on California wildfires but also training future leaders in wildfire management.”

Learn more about SJSU’s Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center here.