Connecting with Students

By Melissa Anderson

Photo: David Schmitz

Photo: David Schmitz

“When I arrived at SJSU as an Educational Opportunity Program student in 1976, I never dreamed that someday I would go to graduate school and become a university professor,” admits Maria Luisa Alaniz, ’78 Social Science, ’80 MA Education.

After receiving her master’s at SJSU, Alaniz completed a doctorate in the sociology of education at Stanford. She was working for the Ford Foundation in 1988 when the chair of SJSU’s Mexican American Studies program called and asked her to teach a course on Mexican American families.

“I spent the summer in the library, developing a course reader,” Alaniz says. “It was not my area of expertise. I remember walking into class and thinking I didn’t know how to teach. But as the semester went on, I felt a connection with the students.”

Currently a professor in the Department of Sociology and Interdisciplinary Social Science, Alaniz also coordinates Social Science Teacher Preparation and is working with Student Academic Success Services on a U.S. Department of Education grant to create a mentorship program pairing students with faculty and staff mentors. She has also served as a McNair Scholars Program mentor and continues to mentor former students who teach throughout the Bay Area and Central Valley. Visiting their classrooms, she’s pleased to see that they, too, have developed “good, supportive relationships with their students.” Like Alaniz herself, “many of those students are first-generation college students,” she notes. “They’re working to help their families, trying to attain their degrees to become part of the professional middle class.”

Alaniz received the 2016 Distinguished Service Award, which recognizes a faculty member for exemplary service in a leadership capacity to the university and/or community or profession that brings credit to San Jose State.


Jody Ulate

Jody Ulate, '05 MA English, is editor of the Washington Square blog and printed alumni magazine.

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1 Response

  1. Marian S Viets says:

    I am very impressed with Maria Alaniz. My son is at SJSU in his last year studying Sociology. Ms Alaniz seems to have taken her drive and enthusiasm to help people and develop new ideas. Maybe the study of Sociology brings out the courageous saviors in people. I hope my son, Hayden has an opportunity to meet Maria Alaniz, she is truly an inspiration of amazing accomplishments you can make in the field of Sociology, even more the people you can touch. Congratulations and Brava Ms Alaniz!

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