How we will “educate and engage” students as part of Transformation 2030

Dr. Mary A. Papazian

Last week, we inaugurated a new tradition here at San Jose State: a springtime State of the University address to reflect on and celebrate our accomplishments throughout the year. We also unveiled a new, 10-year strategic plan for the university, Transformation 2030, which is designed to prepare us for the next steps in SJSU’s development.

Over the course of the next few months, I hope to devote this blog space to the five primary goals of Transformation 2030. It will be a “deep dive” of sorts, an opportunity to examine our plan’s goals more closely, consider what success might look like and identify ways in which we might achieve our desired outcomes.

The first goal laid out in our strategic plan is to Engage and Educate.

At San Jose State, we are ideally positioned to examine the essential questions facing our community and our world. We enjoy a breadth of academic programs, research and applied learning, and an extraordinary legacy of education and opportunity.

So, with this first goal in our strategic plan, we aim to be a university of first choice, where we bring together exceptional people—students, faculty and staff members, and our community—to do extraordinary things as learners, creators and champions.

As I have written recently, it is essential that we expand experiential learning opportunities for our students. Members of today’s and tomorrow’s workforce, particularly those seeking jobs in the innovation economy, require specific skill sets that best can be acquired through study abroad programs, curricular and co-curricular based internships, service-learning projects or research, scholarship and creative activity (RSCA) projects. In keeping with this first goal in our strategic plan, we look to create even more of those opportunities and to ensure that students from all backgrounds and pursuing diverse academic pathways have the opportunity to engage in one or more of these experiences—and we will.

Lecturer Jeremiah Garrido leads his forensic science students through a lab exercise 

We talk a lot at SJSU about becoming an engaged university, one that serves as a resource for our community.

With that in mind, the first goal in our strategic plan also aims to prepare our students to be change agents and leaders. The more effective we are in re-examining our curricular pathways and at creating a tight-knit community for the 35,000 students who live and study here, and the more we encourage these students to think about how their academic experience will enable them to address the local and global challenges of our time, the more effective we will be in creating a successful, more civic-minded student population ready to engage in and succeed in the world around us.

Hand in hand with this, we need to continue honing next-century skill sets in leadership, communication, empathy and other interdisciplinary competencies that many employers across a wide range of industries seek when recruiting the future workforce.

Sometimes known as the “soft” skills, these are attributes such as teamwork, collaboration, and listening. This also involves asking insightful questions. I have spoken to some of Silicon Valley’s finest leaders, and they consistently point out the need to recruit employees that embody these characteristics. Even more broadly, we know they are needed for sound civic and community health.

Finally, the “Engage and Educate” goal challenges us to engage and encourage our students to thrive in their own campus life activities, which we know can support their academic, social and career goals.

Campus life, here and at other institutions, offers such a smorgasbord of things to do, people to meet and topics to learn about!

San Jose State offers campus clubs and organizations for just about any activity or interest you might have—more than 450 student clubs and organizations in all. There are academic clubs, club sports, cultural and religious groups, Fraternity and Sorority organizations, and a wide variety of special interest groups.

If any of this sounds frivolous – it is not! I firmly believe that students who connect to our campus and to their fellow students through one or more recognized student organization will be the same ones who will connect most effectively to their own communities, to their academic work, to our industry partners and eventually to their own workplaces.

Well, maybe the Juggling Club won’t have a direct impact on our students’ career goals, but even fun activities like that can help build camaraderie among students, teach them the value of teamwork and hone their self-discipline and concentration. All of these things add up and help make for a well-rounded, engaged student who will be ready for future success.

So that is Goal #1 of our new strategic plan: to Engage and Educate.  We are well on our way!

I invite all of you to learn more about Transformation 2030, our goals and how we plan to achieve them. And I invite you to join us in our efforts!