SJSU’s faculty members show us all how to “excel and lead”

Dr. Mary A. Papazian

One of my overarching goals since becoming San Jose State’s president in 2016 has been to help establish SJSU as one of the nation’s premier public urban higher education institutions, a university dedicated to its core mission of creating opportunity for all students, regardless of their origins or socio-economic status. This commitment to excellence, aspiration and opportunity is reflected in Goal 2 of our newly-unveiled strategic plan, Transformation 2030, which is articulated as “Excel and Lead.”

The “Excel and Lead” goal challenges us to become “a leading academic institution where faculty and staff members and alumni are regional, national and global leaders in their fields.” So, although we remain a student-centered campus, “Excel and Lead” speaks to our desire to attract and maintain a world-class faculty and alumni base. We know that doing so—combined with a collective commitment to excellence by alums, faculty, and staff—maps directly back to opportunity and success for our students.

The unveiling of Transformation 2030 took place at SJSU’s Student Union on April 8, 2019.

As I noted in my State of the University address in April, San Jose State enjoys an abundance of top-notch faculty members who consistently receive national accolades for their efforts. By highlighting just a few of our many standouts, I hope to encourage and challenge others to emulate those colleagues who are demonstrating precisely what it means to excel and lead:

  • Professor of Meteorology and Climate Science Craig Clements, in our Fire Weather Research Lab in the College of Science, quickly has established himself as the “go-to” expert for the news media on matters related to wildfire behaviors. Carrie Bowers,’18 MS Meteorology and winner of the 2019 Outstanding Thesis Award, helped Craig connect the lab to Tahoe National Forest professionals for specialized training, enabling undergraduates and graduate students to collect research data at wildfire incidents.
  • Also from our College of Science, Assistant Professor Minghui Diao,and Assistant Professor Susan Snycerski from the Department of Psychology, College of Social Sciences, were chosen to receive the Early Career Investigator Award for calendar year 2018. Minghui’s research focuses on the impact of clouds and aerosols on global climate change and regional air quality, while Susan’s interdisciplinary research combines concepts and topics from the fields of behavior analysis, consumer behavior and psychopharmacology.
  • David Schuster, in our Human Factors lab in the College of Social Sciences, studies the human aspects of cybersecurity, obviously a vitally important topic for many here in Silicon Valley and elsewhere.
  • In our College of Humanities and the Arts, assistant professor Allison Johnson published a book in April that draws on her love of history and fascination with the Civil War period. Comments Allison made in a H&A blog profile resonated with me: “We teach the humanities for a reason,” she said. “Issues of oppression and discrimination from the past still have repercussions, or they’ve taken different forms. It’s important to remember how we got to this point in history so we can better respond to the issues of today.” Sounds like someone who is ready to excel and lead!
  • Chemical engineering professor Claire Komives will travel to India in the fall as a Fulbright Scholar. She will be engaged in teaching faculty and administrators the active learning techniques that make our own engineering students so successful.

Speaking of Fulbright Scholars, I was delighted when San Jose State was named a Fulbright Top-Producing institution by the Chronicle of Higher Education recently in recognition of the number of international scholars who chose our university as a place to continue their research. Most recently, we hosted three such international scholars, including a leading researcher in Artificial Intelligence from the country of Georgia, an expert on human capital management from China and a senior educator from Lithuania who specializes in entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship strategies.

Additional standouts on our faculty include:

  • Ahmed Banafa in our College of Engineering, who has become a much-sought after technology influencer and commentator;
  • Deepika Goyal in the College of Health and Human Sciences, who has done notable research on postpartum health;
  • Ellen Middaugh in our College of Education, who has studied and published research on civic youth engagement and political discourse;
  • Annette Nellen in our Lucas College of Business, who has done cutting-edge work on tax rules and the new economy.

And I have not even mentioned our world-class Centers of Excellence and research units, like the Institute for the Study of Sport, Society and Social Change, the Ira Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies, Steinbeck Studies, Cybersecurity Center, Mineta Transportation Institute, Global Leadership Advancement and Moss Landing Marine Labs. Each of those areas feature researchers and faculty doing amazing work in their fields.

I could go on for pages and pages—really!—but these few examples should give you an idea of the quality of faculty we are honored to have at San Jose State. They demonstrate how SJSU faculty members can be, and are, inspired by our research-focused environment, one that opens the university intellectually and creates opportunities for collaboration. When those faculty members join forces with our nearly 400 student organizations and with hundreds and hundreds of individual students themselves, there is no limit to the kind of impact we can have on society.

Finally, “Excel and Lead” includes the impact we see from our wonderful alumni. Through our dynamic campus community and international network of more than 280,000 alums, opportunities abound for global experiences and sharing a broad range of perspectives.

Excelling, leading and seeing tangible results from Transformation 2030 will require us to enhance and build on our faculty and teacher-scholar successes. In support of this need, we have committed to strong, consistent recruitment of tenured and tenure-track faculty members.

And there you have it: Goal #2 from our new strategic plan, to Excel and Lead.

As always, I invite all of you to learn more about Transformation 2030, join us in our efforts, and help us track our progress. Thank you!