Helping the campus community to connect and contribute through the “Spartan Bridge”

SJSU students helping with children at event

Dr. Mary A. Papazian

Continuing my in-depth look at our Transformation 2030 strategic plan goals and the university’s progress on achieving them, I will now explore Goal 4—“Connect and Contribute.”

“Connect” and “contribute” are words we frequently use at San Jose State.

We work more effectively to connect with the City of San Jose, for instance, and with the downtown cluster of businesses and attractions (such as the SJSU-operated Hammer Theatre, which I will discuss in more depth momentarily). We aim to connect our students with industry partners and other potential employers. We hope that our students are connected to their fellow students and with faculty members, and we want them to remain connected when they leave the university and become members of our alumni community.

Likewise, the entire academic mission revolves around the notion of contributing. We are, essentially, equipping our students so they will have the tools to contribute to society once they graduate.

So, for Goal 4 of Transformation 2030, we are developing what will be known as the “Spartan Bridge” – an intentional way of connecting the university with the City of San Jose.SJSU students walking around campus

There is a growing and reciprocal relationship between SJSU and our City. Our colleagues in City Hall continue to invest their time, energy and resources into San Jose State, and we need that to continue and expand as we establish our campus as the lifeblood of this community. Particularly in the city’s downtown core, we need to be a robust ‘player’ that is viewed by other stakeholders as the anchor institution that brings expertise, vibrancy, diversity and energy to the community.

A few examples come to mind. One is the comprehensive housing solution we recently announced. We could not have arrived at this set of tangible plans without the support and resources of our key government partners, including Senator Jim Beall, Assemblymember Ash Kalra and, yes, the City of San Jose. We know that comprehensive solutions to thorny problems require comprehensive support, so we must continue to connect with the City and other partners if we wish to contribute in meaningful ways.

This reminds me of another good example of how we can connect with the City. Later this week we will hold an important ribbon-cutting event on campus that will introduce SJSU as a new Voting Center for the City of San Jose! Educating our students on their civic responsibility and helping to equip them to be engaged in their communities is part of our public mission as educators, so I am delighted that we are able to “connect” with the City to make this happen.

A third, very tangible SJSU asset that helps us connect with the City and broader region is the Hammer Theatre. In early 2016, SJSU reopened the Hammer as a distinctive, high-quality performance venue in the heart of downtown. The venue serves the City of San Jose’s community and the university through high-quality programming expressive of the unique characteristics and diverse cultures that comprise Silicon Valley.Hammer Theatre at dusk

I have written in the past about how a successful athletics program at SJSU can raise the university’s visibility and help with fundraising, faculty recruitment and other benefits, and I view the Hammer and the university’s arts offerings as another key, outward-facing cornerstone of SJSU that can help grow and support those same things. New opportunities to engage with current and potential donors will become even more important as we continue to develop a comprehensive fundraising campaign for the university.

So we are looking at new ways to make sure we capitalize on the Hammer Theatre, a highly unique facility that affords us myriad cultural, artistic and educational opportunities. Our partnership with the City of San Jose on the Hammer Theatre and its revitalization has been a resounding success, for sure, but we think it is a place that offers so many opportunities for us to connect with the people of San Jose and beyond.

Goal 4 of Transformation 2030 also will include a new initiative that we will call “Spartan Town and Gown Week.” This will debut in August, and the idea around the program is to encourage the City of San Jose to welcome back our 35,000+ students and 7,000+ faculty and staff upon their return to campus after the summer break.

Our intent is to partner more closely with local businesses to help demonstrate to our students that San Jose is aware of and supportive of their return to campus. Our traditional “Weeks of Welcome” has typically been limited to campus activities and programs, so we are looking forward to expanding that effort in a way that involves our City partners and colleagues, particularly the business community.

Finally, we are examining ways in which we might reimagine and revamp our annual Homecoming Weekend as well as Parent and Family Weekend. Both of these long-standing activities at San Jose State are engaging and popular with our campus community, but we want to leverage these kinds of opportunities even more! Look for more information in 2021, when we plan on unveiling our new Homecoming plans.

But our goal to better “Connect and Contribute” to our community will not stop there. We are developing a plan that will allow us to capitalize on our Spartan Athletic Center—set to complete construction in 2023—and maximize its usage as much as possible.

All of these plans and activities—while tangible and exciting—are just the tip of the iceberg. Our growing research and innovation enterprise, to cite another example, offers opportunities for us to connect our research, scholarship and creative activities with local and global industries.

Mohamed Abousalem with SJSU students in the lab

Left-Right- Students Jasmine Sanchez and Huqiao Shan demonstrate the VR technology to the President for Research and Innovation, Dr. Mohamed Abousalem at the IDEA lab at San Jose State University in San Jose, Calif., on Wednesday, October 23, 2019. (Photo: Josie Lepe, ’03 BFA Photography)

Our vice president for research and innovation, Mohamed Abousalem, and his team are in the early stages of developing innovation and entrepreneurship support programs that connect our students and faculty entrepreneurs with our community and alumni. Look soon for information on our Celebration of Research event in March as well as a new Campus Innovation Event, both of which will showcase our robust R&I projects and create momentum as we proactively reach out to and connect with industry and other collaborators.

So that is where we are at with Goal 4 of our Transformation 2030 strategic plan, “Connect and Contribute.” As always, I invite you to learn more about Transformation 2030, our goals and how we aim to achieve them. Please join us in our efforts!