Our Growing Reputation As Silicon Valley’s Public Graduate School

I had the opportunity earlier this spring to offer welcome remarks at the CSU’s Grad Slam competition. As our College of Graduate Studies is the first graduate college in the CSU system, we were honored and delighted to host our Cal State colleagues and campus representatives.

The event reminded me of all the amazing progress we have made with our graduate programs these past few years.

It is hard to believe that it was only in January of 2019 that we launched the College, and in that short period of time, Dean Marc d’Alarcao and his team have done a great job supporting our more than 8,000 graduate students and helping to propel them to the highest level of expertise in their chosen discipline through research, scholarship and creative activities.

Grad Slam is the ideal event to showcase this work, in fact. There are a lot of things to love about the event, and chief among them is that it serves as a fun and creative platform to highlight the extraordinary work of all of our talented graduate students. We saw this during the CSU event in May, and of course we were all excited to see SJSU’s own Lupe Franco walk away with the CSU’s People’s Choice Award and the First Place Award at SJSU’s own local Grad Slam event, with Remie Gail Mandawe and Holt Hanley earning awards, too! 

Lupe Franco, Remie Gail Mandawe and Holt Hanley.

(L-R) Lupe Franco, first-place winner at SJSU’s Grad Slam and People’s Choice winner at CSU’s Grad Slam, Remie Gail Mandawe, second-place winner at SJSU’s Grad Slam and competitor at CSU’s Grad Slam and Holt Hanley, People’s Choice winner at SJSU’s Grad Slam.

Much of the progress made in the College has been around the systems and plans that help put our grad students on a path toward success. When travel resumes, for instance, we now have tangible processes for having our graduate students engage in or present their research at venues and conferences across the country.

Likewise, knowing how there is great value in attending networking events designed specifically for graduate students, we now have a plan for that, too. We also have expanded the opportunities for our grad students to develop their presentation and writing skills—some of which were clearly on display throughout Grad Slam.

Our graduate studies programs here at San José State are growing and developing just as we anticipated. This past fall, for instance, we welcomed our first class of audiology doctoral students, and a new occupational therapy doctorate is in development. In May, we celebrated the graduation of the first cohort of students to complete our independent Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree:

Partnerships, we recognize, will be key; we are exploring new Ph.D. programs that could be offered in collaboration with our colleagues at University of California campuses, while a new international doctoral degree program featuring a partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University in the United Kingdom may prove to be a model for how we can prepare our graduate students and faculty for global leadership opportunities. 

But we are not stopping there! We have five new master’s degree programs that we recently introduced, including three in the areas of data science, artificial intelligence and data analytics. We are especially excited about these, knowing that they provide education in a burgeoning area for which Silicon Valley employers rely on San José State to educate its next generation of doers and leaders.

So we are very, very proud of our growing reputation as Silicon Valley’s Public Graduate School, a place where graduate students can come and flourish.

I know that the recognition of the importance of graduate education is something I share with my colleagues at the other CSU campuses. Here at San José State, we are backing up that support with real investments and resources that align with our Transformation 2030 strategic plan. One of our primary goals in that plan is to better support both research and graduate education since we know they often go hand in hand.

It is probably no coincidence, in fact, that we enjoyed our annual Celebration of Research event in the spring! So we will continue to prioritize our research efforts and our graduate education efforts, knowing that they often intersect and build off of one another.

A recent issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education offers a review of a new book by the scholars Leonard Cassuto and Robert Weisbuch. Titled “The New Ph.D: How to Build a Better Graduate Education,” the authors examine how the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light a number of issues in graduate education that they argue have been present for decades.

Although they assert that graduate studies need to be more student-centered more career-diverse, and more public-facing—these are actually characteristics of many of our graduate programs!—they optimistically note that the current crisis may actually help accelerate solutions to many of the problems that they say have persisted for years. So we should all feel good about that long-range forecast for graduate education.

Sharing in the excitement of Grad Slam was a delightful experience, and I was pleased to help to honor so many impressive researchers and their projects.