Scholarship award-winners represent “beating hearts” of their community

Dr. Mary A. Papazian

It has been difficult to watch as our fellow Californians have experienced enormous suffering these past few weeks due to the multiple fires up and down the state. Now, on top of the profound, devastating, and ongoing human tragedy, we at SJSU also have been faced with concerns regarding air quality and our immediate campus environment.

Fortunately, as we approach the Thanksgiving weekend, the Air Quality Index (AQI) levels here in San Jose and throughout our region are continuing to improve, albeit more slowly than we would like. The upcoming forecast calls for clearer skies—and even the possibility of rain. The clearer skies will be a welcome change from the challenges we have faced this past week.

In the midst of so many challenges, we now have an opportunity to spend time with family and friends over the forthcoming Thanksgiving break. As I try to do when faced with personal and professional trials, I have been considering the many things for which I have to be thankful as San José State’s president. While that list easily could fill several pages, one area stands out, and that is our students—kind, caring, compassionate, and committed to each other’s success and well-being.

Indeed, I am tremendously grateful for our remarkable student body, and I am proud and honored to serve as President of our university, the only public university in world-renowned Silicon Valley. Here, I am privileged to work every day to support the diverse group of students we strive collectively to educate.

Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking at this year’s Associated Students Scholarships banquet. I thoroughly enjoyed honoring the 44 scholarship recipients, as it was another reminder of just how special our students are.

While there are other scholarships that we offer at the university, for me these really stand out because they come from the students themselves.

Back in the early 1970s, the journalist David Halberstam wrote a book entitled “The Best and the Brightest.”

It referred to those who comprised the Administration of President John F. Kennedy, and they were all quite brilliant, youthful, and accomplished individuals, or at least they seemed so at the time.

But most people probably are not aware that the phrase “Best and Brightest” actually may have come from a line by the great English romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley in a work of his called “To Jane: The Invitation.” Readers familiar with our recent Frankenstein events may recognize that name; Frankenstein creator Mary Shelley was married to Percy Bysshe Shelley. In any event, the opening line to the poem is, “Best and brightest, come away!”

I mention this not just because I happen to be a scholar of English literature, but because the phrase itself speaks so appropriately to the nature of our A.S. Scholarship recipients. Having been selected from a pool of hundreds of applicants, our A.S. Scholarship winners truly are the best and the brightest, the shining stars of San José State, of whom we expect great things. And I know they will achieve those things, because of their talent, sense of dedication, and sense of purpose.

The scholarship winners all demonstrate exemplary leadership and involvement in campus and community life, including student organizations, sports, campus committees, volunteerism, community and civic activism.

We speak often at San José State about developing an engaged campus and student body, one that serves as a resource for our broader community. And all of us are working hard to develop a student population here that will help connect us more closely with Silicon Valley and the surrounding region.

The A.S. Scholarship winners are precisely the kind of engaged and caring students we hope to nurture at San José State, students who are not simply academically gifted but also students with an eye on the future. They rightly see themselves as the beating heart of our community.

I hesitate to call out any single scholarship or scholarship award-winners among the 44 recipients in total, because they are all equally impressive and represent vitally-important themes and interests at our university. But a few stood out to me when I went through the list myself.

One of those is the A.S. Global Scholar Award, of which we had three scholarship winners.

I am working hard with the faculty and staff at SJSU to challenge our students and help prepare them for the workforce of the future. In my mind, that speaks not only to various disciplines that we know will continue to emerge in our economy, such as health care and information technology, but to the global-minded approach that we need to be taking. We must be assured that we are educating our local students for global futures. And we must emphasize the interdisciplinary, global connections that we hope to make across our academic programs.

I am delighted that we were able to recognize three Global Scholar Award winners among all the deserving scholarship winners. These students, Omar Habra, Madeline Horn, and Andrea Wong, clearly see the inter-connected nature that their studies have with worldwide issues and trends. With these well-deserved scholarship funds, these students will be able to study abroad and expand their academic journey overseas, to new cultures, new people, new possibilities.

I also was happy to recognize Liana Hua, our A.S. Environmental Champion Award-winner, for being such a strong proponent of environmental sustainability initiatives. My understanding is that this particular scholarship may be one of the more difficult ones for us to award since there are fewer students than we would expect who are engaged actively in such issues.

Though San José State has been recognized as an innovator in sustainability matters, we need more Lianas, more students who want to help make us one of most environmentally sound campuses in the country.

So congratulations to all of our Associated Students Scholarship Award winners this year. I am deeply impressed with the commitment they have demonstrated toward their studies and toward the issues that matter to them. The examples they set make them role models for both our current student body and for future students who will follow in their footsteps.

I close by expressing the deepest concerns of our entire Spartan community for all those impacted by the terrible fires. It is a time to mourn our losses and find solace in each other and in our hopes for the future. With all who have suffered in our thoughts and prayers, I offer my best wishes to the entire Spartan community for a safe, happy, and healthy Thanksgiving holiday.