The warm, radiant light from SJSU’s graduating class dazzles and soothes

I came as a shadow,
I stand now a light;
The depth of my darkness
Transfigures your night.

My soul is a nocturne
Each note is a star;
The light will not blind you
So look where you are.

The radiance is soothing.
There’s warmth in the light.
I came as a shadow,
To dazzle your night! 

Nocturne Varial, by Lewis Alexander

For me, that poem—written by the uncle of legendary educator and college basketball coach John Thompson—beautifully captures the essence of our Spring 2021 graduating class. Our dazzling students came to SJSU with dreams and aspirations, and their bright, shining presence serves as a constant reminder of why we are here at SJSU.
Graduation, as we all know, truly is one of the most important and revered times on the academic calendar. It is an opportunity for us to celebrate and honor our students for the completion of their studies and, for the graduates themselves, it is the realization of a milestone that they have worked toward their entire lives. 
This week, as members of our Spring 2021 cohort begin to reflect on their college years while making or even finalizing post-graduate plans, graduates will bask in well-earned kudos from family and friends on their achievements.
This Wednesday, the entire campus community will begin to celebrate the accomplishments of our new graduates with a live-streamed kickoff event at 8:30 a.m., after which our graduation recognition websites—one for each of our colleges—will launch. Among other features, the websites will feature a variety of video messages, social media posts and a custom recognition slide for each student. 
In addition—with recent adjustments made by Santa Clara County and the state to COVID-19 restrictions on public gatherings—we are delighted to be including an on-campus, blue carpet walk-through photo experience. Three professional photo opportunities—including one at our César E. Chávez Monument as well as one with a live-streamed “Grad Cam” where graduates can wave at family and friends watching from home—are included. You can watch the stream from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on May 26 and 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on May 27 and 28.
Though attendance at the on-campus photo opportunities is limited to graduates and their two guests (by appointment only, with no faculty or staff present without consent from our Special Events office) and while the collective experiences cannot replicate a traditional commencement ceremony, we hope our hybrid graduation recognition features this semester will be memorable for our students and their families and something they will treasure forever. Hopefully, many will return for a full in-person ceremony at some point in the future.
Our Spring 2021 class is undoubtedly one of the most resilient and dedicated cohorts ever. The grit and determination they displayed, especially in the face of so many challenges this past year, has been remarkable. That character bodes well for their futures, and I firmly believe we will remember this cohort not only for the challenges they faced, but for the positive imprint they will leave on society. 
Congratulations to all of our spring graduates! 

The spring semester has, in many ways, been a rollercoaster ride.

In addition to the challenges that the global pandemic continued to pose, other global and national events—such as hate incidents directed at members of our Asian and Asian Pacific Islander and Desi/American (APID/A) community, the emotional turmoil in the aftermath of the Derek Chauvin murder trial, regional conflicts and destruction that impact many members of our campus community, new and devastating COVID-19 outbreaks in various parts of the world and the attack on our democracy at the U.S. Capitol—at times made more difficult for us to focus on our core mission. 

But, as always, our students, faculty, staff and other members of our campus community persevered. While the list of SJSU successes this past semester would take up many pages, I wanted to list just a few of them here:

  • We continued to make progress addressing systemic racism, though we know that the work does not end here and will remain a priority. I plan on offering a full update on our progress sometime next month, but in the meantime I encourage you to visit our systemic racism website to see the scope of activities and advances we have made to date. 
  • We saw a very successful Celebration of Research, the first such event since launching our Division of Research and Innovation. I was delighted to take part and help honor the faculty and students at SJSU–both undergraduate and graduate students–who have been involved this past year in so many wonderful research and scholarship projects, including those in the STEM fields as well as creative endeavors from the arts, humanities and social sciences. 
  • Speaking of graduate students, how wonderful it was to host the CSU’s first Grad Slam event! It was both an honor and a pleasure to welcome our colleagues and campus representatives from throughout the Cal State system. This competitive event proved to be a fun and creative platform that highlighted the extraordinary work of all of our talented graduate students. 
  • We have recognized the very first graduates of our new Doctor of Nursing Practice program! These doctors-to-be completed their studies while somehow finding time to lead COVID-19 testing and vaccine clinics and doing other vital nursing work. How inspiring! 
  • Our wonderful Legacy of Poetry festival had a successful week in April and helped bring the beauty and wonder of poetry to many new devotees. 
  • The Institute for Emancipatory Education initiative—led by our Lurie College of Education—kicked off with several successful activities, while the just-announced REP4 initiative also promises to change the trajectory of education by empowering students to design their own academic futures. 
  • On the playing field, the SJSU Women’s Tennis team picked up where Spartan Football left off last season—with a conference championship! In track and field, both our women’s and men’s programs performed well at the conference outdoor championships, with multiple records broken and individual titles earned. Off the field, we were delighted to welcome new men’s basketball coach Tim Miles to our coaching ranks.

What a spring it has been!

I am grateful each day for the incredible students, faculty and staff of San José State. Congratulations again to our spring graduates, many of whom you can read about in this terrific story by a member of our editorial team. And to the rest of you: thank you for everything you do. 
I look forward to the fall, and a new beginning for SJSU. Have a great summer, everyone.
With appreciation, 



Dr. Mary A. Papazian