Veterans Embracing Transition

By Lauren Rohde, Community Relations, Lockheed Martin
Excerpt from the Lockheed Martin newletter

The end of the school year, the beginning of pool season and Mother’s Day. The month of May has a lot of connotations. It is also Military Appreciation month, which should be of special interest for Lockheed Martin employees since we all know, “We Never Forget Who We’re Working For.” But do we remember that solider once he or she returns home? What do we do to support our veteran population and help them successfully transition back into civilian life? These and similar topics were discussed in a Psychology 190 class at San Jose State University (SJSU) as part of their Veterans Embracing Transition (VET) Connect program supported by Lockheed Martin.

Representatives from Lockheed Martin were invited to attend the capstone class where students did

Image: Group photograph of award winners

Five of the seven veteran peer leaders proudly display their Lockheed Martin scholarships. The G.I. bill does not cover summer or winter breaks from school if students are not enrolled in class, so these scholarships help bridge the gap in financial aid.

research projects on post-traumatic stress disorder, veterans’ transitions and other issues surrounding military life. Part of the event was a recognition ceremony for their seven veteran peer leaders who helped the students learn about these issues. The peer leaders received Lockheed   Martin-sponsored scholarships to help cover costs over summer break while they are not enrolled in school.

“I’m grateful Lockheed Martin is recognizing what we’re doing here,” said Frank Martinez (pictured second from left), a veteran peer leader, Iraq veteran and member of the California Army National Guard. “I have an internship, but I’m not working. I can’t thank Lockheed Martin and their employees enough for their generosity.” During the capstone presentation, Frank shared a poignant video that he made while deployed to Iraq to show his family what it was like to be there.

Carli White, a 26-year-old SJSU student graduating next week with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, read a free verse poem she wrote. The poem is a reflection of her thoughts after spending a semester in a class on veterans’ issues and learning about the struggles that veterans face when they leave the service.

Mark Pinto (pictured middle), a peer leader and Gulf War Marine Corps veteran who is about to graduate with a master’s degree in photography, is a two-time recipient of the Lockheed Martin scholarship. “Going to school is hard, and I don’t know a vet who’s gone to school without financial struggles,” said Mark. “The relief [from these scholarships] really helps us move forward. You’re reaching out to all the vets, and it lets us know there are organizations out there that care.”

“Be informed on issues that affect vets,” said John Paul Arde (pictured second from right), an eight-year Marine Corps veteran and peer leader. “If you know vets, ask them how they’re doing and show them you care. Relate to them. Don’t quit on someone if they are having problems. I wouldn’t have anyone left if they all quit.”

The messages shared at the capstone event aligned with the core idea to raise awareness and help veterans in the ways they need support. In addition to teaming with local universities to aid veterans transitioning from the military to academics, Lockheed Martin is a strong supporter of military and veteran hiring programs and multiple nonprofits that provide a variety of services for veterans to help address their different needs.


SPARC 2014 – Call for Submissions

Gain professional experience in a cooperative environment!

Since 1957, the Spartan Psychological Association Research Conference (SPARC) has been providing students of psychology the opportunity to present their original research in a conference setting.  Undergraduate and graduate students interested in presenting their psychological research at SPARC should submit an abstract for consideration by March 21, 2014.

Please join us this year – as presenter or attendee – for another outstanding program comprised of oral presentations, a poster session, and a keynote address from a distinguished scholar in psychology.

Submission Information:

Deadline: Friday, March 21, 2014
Submission Process:  Online Form

Keynote Speaker:

Dr. James McGaugh
Professor, University of California, Irvine
SJSU Psychology Alumnus
Web site

Event Information:

May 8, 2014
San Jose State University
Student Union Ballroom
Web site


Student-athletes work on sport transition study

Image:  Football game

by Spartan Daily, Feb 16, 2014

A group of San Jose State University athletes are  working on a study that focuses on the transition from high school to college football and the stresses that come with being a student athlete.

The study was launched in Fall 2012 with the help of Joanna Fanos, a psychology professor.

The program was created by Vince Buhagiar, a senior psychology major, graduate David Fales and David Catalano, a sophomore business management major.

Buhagiar, Fales and Catalano all played for the Spartan football team.

“The main basis of it is to help incoming freshmen with the transition between high school and college,” Buhagiar said. “We believe that is a struggle for anyone, but especially for athletes, because on top of the school and the social and the being away from home they have to juggle another part of their life which is athletics.”

Fanos said the study was influenced by a study at the University of North Texas titled “Helping Freshman Student Athletes Adjust to College Life Using Psychoeducational Groups,” written by Henry L. Harris, Michael K. Altekruse and Dennis W. Engels.

The UNT study split students into groups from basketball, cross-country, football, golf, swimming and diving, tennis, volleyball and track and field.

Groups discussed issues having to do with student athletics and the results showed that the sessions helped students adjust to the college environment, according to the study. 

The SJSU transition study focuses on male football players, Fanos said.

The transition group meets once a week, breaks into different groups and discusses different issues. In the Fall there will be a questionnaire given out which will assess the group members’ progress, she said.

“We hope that this season will be much more organized,” Buhagiar said.

Buhagiar said it took two years for the group to create a good framework for the study.

“It would be awesome if we could publish our study,”  Buhagiar said. “And other teams — whether it’s the coach and academic personnel from other colleges — reads it and decides that it’s a good idea and they initiate a similar project.”

The study focuses on adjusting to being away from home, not being the hero of the football team as high school students often are, dating, homesickness and other issues, Fanos said.

“These football players spend a tremendous amount of time training,” Fanos said.

She said student athletes often have to squeeze coursework in between sports training, classes, traveling for games and their social lives.

Many students have time to do their homework over the weekend, but the football players are doing it on the bus, Fanos said.

“These folks are great,” Fanos said. “I’m just very impressed with them.” 

New football players often red shirt, or sit on the bench during their first season, Fanos said.

She and Buhagiar both said red shirting causes athletes to feel left out, which can add to the stress of the high school to college transition.

“They feel like pieces of meat,” Fanos said. 

Twins Rebecca and Breanna Garcia, both junior psychology majors, are on the cross country and track teams and are helping with the study.

Breanna and Rebecca said they started working on the study this semester.

“I think it was really clear to us being division one athletes that a support group is vital to that transition,” Breanna said.

The group has started a literature review this semester, and will start collecting data from the football team in the 2014 football season, she said.

“You really have to stand back and realize that it’s not going to fall apart if you don’t meet a certain goal,” Rebecca said. “That you’re not going to crumple.”

The study is in the early stages of progress, Fanos said.

“I’m out there working with these guys every day and I’ve learned stuff about them that would make me gain a lot of respect,”  Buhagiar said. “Things that you wouldn’t talk about every day and it’s just surprising that they’re able to live with that and hold everything together so well.”


Inspired by His Sister, Spartan Designs App



Designed by SJSU students, the Bloom app minimizes risk by providing daily goals that adapt to the changing needs of an expectant mother over the course of her pregnancy (image courtesy of Jarad Bell and Cherie Yamaguchi).

It all began with a Spartan’s sister, who needed a good way to track data that would help keep her and her baby healthy through a difficult pregnancy.

That simple observation, by graduate student Jarad Bell, ’15 Human Factors, inspired plans for a new app recently accepted to the second round of a prestigious international design competition.

“The competition received 65 submissions from around the world and their manuscript was selected as one of the top 12,” wrote Assistant Professor Jeremiah Still of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Graduate Program.

Competing Internationally

The SJSU team will travel in April to Toronto, Canada, to present their work at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, the premier international conference on human-computer interaction.

“It is clear by the academic participation and industry sponsors, including Google, Microsoft, Bloomberg and Autodesk, that this is the place to shine,” Still said.

Five students collaborated on “Bloom: Fostering Healthy and Peaceful Pregnancies with Personal Analytics”: Bell, graduate students Cherie Yamaguchi, ’14 Human Factors, Max Wenger, ’14 Human Factors, and Peter McEvoy, ’15 Human Factors, and undergraduate Auriana Shokrpour, ’14 Psychology.

This year’s challenge was “to design an object, interface, system or service intended to help us to develop and share self-awareness, understanding or appreciation for our body data,” according to organizers.

Developing the App

The SJSU team set out to develop an app that would foster healthy and peaceful pregnancies by motivating expectant mothers to sustain beneficial habits and behaviors.

Within the Psychology of Design Lab, the team worked hard to develop and complete an iterative research and design process that explored how persuasive design characteristics could be employed to encourage self-monitoring and motivationally sustain healthy behavior in expectant mothers.

Bloom minimizes risk by providing daily goals that adapt to the changing needs of an expectant mother over the course of her pregnancy.

In addition, the app maximizes peace of mind by offering tools that augment self-awareness and facilitate enriched communication between the medical community and expectant mothers.

Sister’s Feedback

“I have shared the project with my sister,” Bell said. “She felt that the app is the perfect way for pregnant women to take control of their health and be proactive about any complications or issues that may arise.”

Remembering Mike Abrams

Photo: Dr. Michael Abrams


Mike, an instructor in the Psychology Department at San Jose State University, passed away suddenly at the age of 69.

Mike was born and grew up in Chicago, Illinois, the middle of three sons. He received his undergraduate education at Northwestern University and went on to earn his Ph.D. in Psychology at the University of Toronto. Early in his career as an experimental psychologist he taught at the University of Manitoba and at Ohio University.

Switching to the high tech field, Mike at first went to work for NCR in Dayton, Ohio, designing computer simulation experiments, and later worked for 13 years at Hewlett-Packard in San Jose as a software engineer.

A man of many interests and activities, Mike was never at a loss for something to do. He was an avid tennis player and also an accomplished bridge player. He enjoyed golf and sailing and the Oakland A’s. He baked his “famous” scones for everyone he loved. He never stopped reading in his field and could speak about a myriad of topics with knowledge and passion. He was a faithful volunteer for several community organizations, including Second Harvest Food Bank and Hospice of the Valley.

Mike’s greatest joy was spending time with his wife June, whom he adored and encouraged for 20 years. Besides June, he is survived by daughter Allyson and son-in-law Amir Kats; daughter Ilana and son-in-law Steven Hyman; son Aaron and partner Elaine Poon; stepsons Kevin and Paul McCullough; grandchildren Adam and Danielle Hyman; brother Steven Abrams and sister-in-law Abbe Alpert; and brother Sheldon and sister-in-law Mickie Abrams. We all love him and will miss him greatly.

A memorial event will be held Sunday, December 8th, 2:00 PM, at the SJSU Memorial Chapel. Donations in Mike’s honor may be made to Second Harvest or Hospice of the Valley.

Published in San Jose Mercury News/San Mateo County Times on Nov. 8, 2013

Online Partnership with Udacity: What have we learned two semester into the relationship?


SJSU Plus: Fall 2013 Update


Media contact: Pat Lopes Harris, 408-656-6999

The following can be attributed to SJSU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Ellen Junn.

With summer drawing to a close, we would like to provide everyone with an update on the SJSU/Udacity partnership. SJSU Plus began in January with just under 300 students in three courses. In June, we added two more courses, with 2,091 students enrolling in all five classes.

What do these courses have in common? All are entry-level classes most students need to graduate. This matches the project’s goal, which is to provide high-quality, low-cost college courses for credit to everyone.

SJSU and Udacity learned quite a bit over the past six months. The spring pilot study funded by the National Science Foundation will be published online September 4. Meanwhile, we would like to share some lessons learned.

Here’s what worked:

  • Learning by doing works. Online video allows us to stop every few minutes and offer students the opportunity to try what they’ve learned with an online exercise. Instructors have found this so effective that some are incorporating SJSU Plus materials into their campus-based courses.
  • Student interaction remains strong. Does online learning stifle conversation? We found the opposite. Students are connecting with each other, instructors and instructional assistants through every means available: text, email, phone calls, chats and meetings.

Here’s where we’ve improved:

  • Students need help preparing for class. With SJSU Plus reaching well beyond the SJSU campus, we are enrolling a growing number of students who are unfamiliar with the demands of college courses. This summer, 89 percent of our SJSU Plus students were not California State University students. So SJSU Plus now offers orientation in various forms in all five courses.
  • Students need help keeping up. Everyone needs a little encouragement to stay on track. So we’ve added tools that help students gauge their progress and we’re checking in with individual students more often.
  • We need to communicate better with students. Although SJSU and Udacity try to be as clear as possible with our online instruction, we know we can do better. Student feedback has been immensely helpful in refining SJSU Plus materials. We’re also sending less email and more messages while students are “in class” online.

Here’s what happened:

We’re still analyzing summer results. As you know, it can take a while to double check the numbers and understand cause and effect. But SJSU and Udacity are encouraged by improvements in student performance across the board. The following chart shows the percentage of students who earned a C or better.

Spring Pilot 2013 Summer Pilot 2013 SJSU On-Campus
(based on past 6 semesters)
Elementary Statistics 50.5% 83.0% 76.3%
College Algebra 25.4% 72.6% 64.7%
Entry Level Math 23.8% 29.8% 45.5%
General Psychology not offered 67.3% 83.0%
Intro to Programming not offered 70.4% 67.6%

(*Represents students who scored a C or better)

The overall retention rate dropped to 60 percent this summer, compared with 83 percent this spring, reflecting SJSU’s decision to be more flexible when students signaled to instructors that they needed to drop the course.

Here are a few things we’d like to clarify:

  • Over the summer, there were many comparisons made between our SJSU Plus and face-to-face courses. What many people failed to realize is this was not an apples-to-apples comparison.
  • On campus, we have students who are well acquainted with the rigor of college-level work. With SJSU Plus, most students are just beginning or resuming their college careers.
  • Also, the SJSU students enrolled in the SJSU Plus math courses this past spring failed the campus-based versions once before. Normally, these students would have been required to return to community college.
  • And that goes right back to our mission of increasing access. A 30 percent pass rate does sound low, until you stop and think that most of these students would not otherwise have had access to the course at all.

Here’s where we see things going in the future.

  • After taking a breather this fall to set the stage for student success in the future, we will resume offering SJSU Plus courses in January 2014. One major question we need to address is how to better sync our courses with our students’ busy schedules.
  • Many students have asked for greater flexibility in pacing, enabling them to speed up or slow down outside the confines of a conventional semester schedule. Customized scheduling is unprecedented at SJSU, but we would like to explore this option. interviews Dr. Cary Feria about her research


Speed haPhoto: Dr. Cary Ferias an effect on multiple-object tracking independently of the number of close encounters between targets and distractors

Interviewed by and Posted on dugdug, August 2013

Dr. Cary Feria is Associate Professor of Psychology and of Human Factors and Ergonomics at San Jose State University. Dr. Feria received her doctorate in Psychology from the University of California, Irvine, where she explored depth and distance perception. More recently, her research interests have centered around visual attention and human factors. Dr. Feria’s primary research focus is “multiple object tracking,” which refers to the ability to visually track several moving objects simultaneously. Her recent paper, titled “Speed has an effect on multiple-object tracking independently of the number of close encounters between targets and distractors” was published in the journal Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics.

Background of the study

The ability to visually track objects around us is essential to our capability to navigate our environment. The limitations of humans’ attentional capacities are most evident in cognitively taxing situations, such as when a driver navigates through a congested street, and when an air traffic controller attempts to prevent collisions while monitoring numerous aircraft. Understanding multiple object tracking has practical applications in the design of controls and displays for automobiles, airplane cockpits, and air traffic control systems.

Intuition tells us that the more quickly objects are moving, the worse we will be at tracking them (and research as evidenced this intuition!). However, it is also known that when the objects we are tracking pass close to one another, we tend to confuse the objects and have more difficulty tracking them. When objects are moving faster, they pass close to each other more often — So potentially it could be that fast motion does not actually make tracking harder, but that tracking is just worse at higher speeds due to the objects coming close to each other more often. Our study tested this possibility by using computerized displays in which the speed of the objects could be increased without increasing the frequency of objects passing close to each other.

Results and findings

Our study found that the faster the objects moved, the worse people tracked, even though the objects were not passing close to each other more often at higher speeds. So we concluded that higher speeds indeed make it more difficult to track objects. We also found that the greater the number of objects that had to be tracked, the larger the effect the speed had on people’s tracking ability. This suggests that when objects are moving faster, we need to use more of our attention in order to track each object; so when there are a large number of objects to track and they are moving quickly, we don’t have enough attentional resources to be able to track all the objects accurately.

About the department

The Department of Psychology at San Jose State University has Bachelors degree programs, as well as Masters programs in Experimental and Research Psychology, Clinical Psychology, and Industrial/Organizational Psychology. The faculty of Psychology are highly dedicated and student-oriented, and have a wide variety of basic and applied research interests. The San Jose State University Human Factors and Ergonomics Masters program is an interdisciplinary program that prepares students for careers involving the design of machines and equipment to be compatible with the human body and humans’ cognitive abilities and limitations.


dugdug log

 DugDug bridges the gap between academic journals (that are written by academics, for academics) and mainstream publications (that are written by “us,” for “us”). They seek to take the cutting edge research occurring at academic institutions, and delivering key insights in a way that is easily understandable to casual readers.


Behind the Scenes of a MOOC

Behind the Scenes of a MOOC
by The Network, Cisco’s Technology News Site

May 12, 2013

MOOCS, or massive open online courses, have been making headlines in higher education over the last year, with many colleges and universities jumping into the game. That includes San Jose State University, which recently partnered with Silicon Valley-based online education startup, Udacity to offer college classes for credit, at an affordable $150 per course. We take a look at the technology used in this partnership, and show how the startup and San Jose State say they are changing the face of higher education.  (Transcript available here.)

How To Succeed In An Online Course

Posted by Robyn Gee for Youth Radio
March 1, 2013 at 03:48pm

Image:  Screen capture of Udacity course

A recent study out of Columbia University shows that certain groups of students, specifically African Americans, males, and those who have low grade point averages, do poorly in online courses compared to other students. An article in the Chronicle of Higher Education warns that online learning could widen the existing achievement gap between white and African American students.

Associate Professor Sean Laraway at San Jose State University in California is concerned about this trend, especially because the primary goal of the online elementary statistics course he teaches is to increase accessibility to the material. He teaches this course in partnership with Udacity, a provider of free online college courses. Laraway currently teaches approximately 4,000 students, which is actually small for an online course.

Ideally, this course serves students who would be otherwise waitlisted for the in-person course. It’s called a “bottleneck course” because it satisfies general education requirement. In addition, the course is open to community college students and high school students for credit, as well as to the public.

Laraway says that instead of talking about a black and white achievement gap, the focus should be on a student’s previous preparation for the course. “Studies show that students who aren’t prepared for in-class courses, are doubly unprepared for an online course,” he said. And most likely, students who are unprepared for online courses, have been failed by in-class education their whole life, he added.

Laraway said that there are certain traits that contribute to a student’s success in an online course. First, a student has to be able to follow written directions, often in English. Secondly, a student must have time management skills. “Because you’re not physically scheduled to show up somewhere, it’s easy to say, ‘Oh yeah, I’ll get to it.’ Also when you’re taking a class at home, there are all kinds of distractions going on, sometimes family responsibilities… You have to be in an environment that supports sitting down at a computer and working really hard on some challenging concepts,” said Laraway.

While the content of Laraway’s online statistics course is exactly the same as it would be in the classroom, the experience is intentionally different. In a traditional classroom, a student will often listen to a lecture twice a week, and then complete homework. “You’re not forced to engage in the material, except in a passive way,” said Laraway. “What we hope to do with our course is present bite-size pieces of information and then immediately have some activity where they can assess their knowledge, or provoke their thought. It requires a lot of interaction,” he said.

Ultimately, Laraway says that online education is not going away — and his course is an experiment that should be evaluated. “All we can do is make sure [online courses are] evidence-based, have empirical data to support what we’re doing, that we continue to try to make it better, and keep getting student feedback on how to make it better,” he said.