Academic Spotlight News
Students Form Connections to Professors and Curriculum in Humanities Honors
By Melissa Anderson
Alisala Nunes, a first-year student, initially wanted to attend a liberal arts school. But when she discovered she could pursue a degree in civil engineering at San Jose State University’s top-ranked Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering and apply for the Humanities Honors program, it seemed like a win-win.
“It was a nice surprise that SJSU had a program like this,” she said.
The Humanities Honors program was founded in 1954 by four professors who combined history, literature, arts and philosophy education into a four-semester program that fulfills many GE requirements while also providing a learning community for students. The students stay together as a cohort for four semesters.
“I’ve made a few friends in my seminar,” Nunes said. “Most friends are from my living situation or major, so it’s nice to have a switch to talk to people who are interested in other things.”
For Nunes, she said the Humanities Honors Program has already begun to teach her the analytic and communication skills she will need for engineering, where she sees the ability to work as team member to be essential.
“I leave every lecture with new ideas and see the interconnectivity of disciplines,” she said. “I see how art, religion, law and culture tie together.”
Professor Cynthia Rostankowski, the coordinator of the program, said the majority of students who enter the program are from non-Humanities majors, such as business, psychology, economics, computer science and others. She noted that the qualifications for the program are within reach of many students, with a requirement that they have a 3.0 unweighted GPA and 550 on the SAT reading/writing section (students can also qualify with select other entrance exams or a 3+ on an AP English exam.)
“A lot of people think it is just for high-achieving students,” Rostankowski said. “But it’s really to help students learn how to learn.”
Through the program, students attend a lecture class that is team taught by four professors
and then break out into smaller groups for seminar sessions.
Carmel Weiler, a graduate student in philosophy and Rostankowski’s teaching assistant, said she joined the program as an undergraduate. Even though she had to stop out for personal reasons, she said being part of the program helped her resolve to return to her education years later. During her time away from her studies, she kept all her books; they benefited her as she tutored neighborhood kids.
“The program stressed how to write well, and that will help me in the research phase,” she said, as she continues to work on her master’s and plans to pursue a doctorate.
In 2014, the department began offering an Advanced Honors Program that works on the same principles, completing SJSU Studies areas R, S and V. It is a two-semester program that is team-taught and provides a cohort for upper division students who have successfully completed the WST, including incoming transfer students.
Isaiah McNair-Wilson, a transfer student who will be graduating in 2017, said he joined the Advanced Honors Program as he thought it would be “fun to take eclectic classes.”
As a business major with an emphasis in marketing, he said he made many friends in Advanced Honors and has learned a lot about writing. The skills have already helped him as he pens cover letters for his job search.
“The classes teach critical thinking,” he said. “You need humanities courses no matter what field you are in so you understand the environmental and socioeconomic impacts of what you do.”
In addition to the skills and knowledge students gain in the classroom, Rostankowski said the programs also provide mentoring and advising for students.
“At orientation, I ask students if they have heard of the sport of curling,” she said, describing how players move a stone across a sheet of ice. “There is one position called a sweeper who skates backward to clear a path so the stone can slide smoothly to where it is intended to go. I see my work as doing that for students. We need to do what we can to assist students to find their path and thrive.”
2017-18 Humanities Honors Instructors:
Tova Cooper, Humanities
James Lindahl, Philosophy & Humanities
David Mesher, English & Humanities
Johanna Movassat, Art History & Humanities
Kenneth Peter, Political Science & Humanities
Cynthia Rostankowski, Humanities
Jennifer Rycenga, Humanities
Gregory Smay, Humanities
Andrew Wood, Communication Studies & Humanities
2017-18 Advanced Honors Instructors:
2017 CSU Trustees' Award for Outstanding Achievement
The CSU Trustees' Award for Outstanding Achievement is given each year to students who demonstrate superior academic performance, personal accomplishments, community service, and financial need.
San José State University
Trustee Emeritus William Hauck and Padget Kaiser Scholar
"I hope to help other women fill in the gaps in academic achievement as I have been helped by women throughout my academic career."
Essy Barroso-Ramirez is a first-generation Mexican-American student who grew up with English as her second language. She has worked two jobs throughout her entire college career. Today, Essy is earning a bachelor’s degree in public health and a minor in Mexican-American studies and legal studies at San José State University.
Essy is a member of Phi Kappa Phi honor society and the Humanities Honors Program. She works for the City of Santa Cruz and San José State University’s Department of Mexican American Studies. Active on campus, Essy is a member of Gente Unida, holds a leadership position in the Sigma Pi Alpha Sorority and has volunteered at the Science Extravaganza, MESA Day and Molcajete Fest events.
Essy plans to work with policymakers to better society as a whole, ensure social justice and promote equality.
SJSU Presents 2017 Top Seniors and Outstanding Thesis Awards
San Jose State President Mary A. Papazian will recognize this year’s top graduates at Commencement, beginning at 9:30 a.m. May 27 in Spartan Stadium. Lauren Cordova and Fatema Elbakoury have been named Outstanding Graduating Seniors for their leadership roles on and off campus, contributions to the community and personal achievements as undergraduates.
Fatema Elbakoury, ’17 English, has enriched San Jose State through her work as a diversity advocate intern at SJSU’s MOSAIC Cross Cultural Center, as a peer mentor through Peer Connections and as a Salzburg Scholar. She offered workshops on feminism, Islam, whiteness, transphobia, mass incarceration and body image through MOSAIC. Upon returning from Salzburg, she developed a workshop addressing complacency in the globalized world. She represented SJSU at Harvard Divinity School’s Diversity and Explorations program and Northwestern University’s Community for Human Rights conference—while maintaining a 3.974 GPA. Elbakoury was one of 47 scholarship recipients nationwide chosen by the Islamic Scholarship Fund in recognition of her work using the arts to shift the perception of Muslim Americans.
Past Events and News:
Erin Enguerro, Humanities Honors alumna, Humanities minor, and Dean's Scholar, Recognized
in 54th Annual Honors Convocation, April 2016
(Excerpt from Office of the Provost Featured Stories)
What does receiving this particular award mean to you?
When I was first recognized as a Scholar in 2013, this academic award taught me that regardless of my circumstances, I had the capacity to be involved in a variety of activities. Today I realize that being a successful college student doesn’t entirely depend on my hearing loss, commuter status, race, or socioeconomic background. My achievements are also made possible through the ability to make the most of my opportunities and the dedicated support of the staff and faculty who believed in my capabilities to grow in ways I never imagined. After five years, this recognition culminates the personal and professional lessons I feel very blessed to have experienced at SJSU.
Who has had the greatest influence or impact on your life? In addition, tell us about a SJSU faculty member who contributed to your academic success.
I am eternally grateful for my energetic and thoughtful Filipino parents, who encouraged me to create my own adventures while building the confidence to seek mentors in my higher education.
Dr. Cynthia Rostankowsi was my Humanities Minor Advisor and supervisor for both the 2013 Global Citizenship Seminar and 2014 Cultural Showcase. She encouraged me to embrace the humanistic side of education where curiosity and an open mind allow us to thrive in a flawed and dynamic world.
Humanities Honors Student Winner of the Third Annual Norton Poetry Recitation
Our Humanities Honors student Jacky Mai WON the third annual Norton Poetry Recitation contest! He won a $200.00 Barnes & Noble gift card. For this contest, all contestants were required to video themselves reciting their chosen poem. Jacky Mai, recited "My mistress' eyes" Sonnet 130, by William Shakespeare.
Jacky is currently in HUM 2A and was one of two students from SJSU to make it to the finals. No institution other than SJSU had more than one student represented among the finalists.
Please go to http://fairmatter.com/post/69608260182/2013-norton-anthology-student-recitation-contest and click on "Jacky Mai" to see his winning poetry recitation
Congratulations! Erin Enguero, a 2013 President's Scholar and Humanities Honors Student
Erin Enguerro, a 2011-2013 Humanities Honors student, will be recognized at the 51st Annual Honors Convocation on Friday, April 26, 2013 at 6:00 PM to be held at the Event Center.
According to Erin, "The Humanities Honors Program and the upcoming Salzburg Scholarship for 2013-2014 have opened my eyes to the diversity of the world - a very important lesson as a future health professional." The full text of her interview is available at http://www.sjsu.edu/provost/events/honors/featured/2013/erin_enguero/
A President's Scholar award is given to undergraduate students who have earned a 4.0 grade point average at San José State University in at least two contiguous semesters of the three semesters prior to the Honors Convocation.
Mrs. Fink Endowment Celebration!
On April 7 th 2011, the Dean of the College of Humanities, Karl Toepfer, and the Humanities Honors Program honored Mrs. Maxine Fink for her generous gift to Humanities Honors. Among the guests who attended this event were President Don Kassing, Provost Gerry Selter, the current and emeriti professors from the Humanities Honors Program and current students and recent alumni. Students and faculty who were able to attend felt privileged to be able to meet Mrs. Fink.
The Dr. Jack E. and Mrs. Maxine Hunt Fink Distinguished Scholar in Humanities Endowment comes at a time when public higher education in California is facing economic adversity. We are grateful for Mrs. Fink's support, which will help the Humanities Honors Program continue to thrive at San Jose State. Her gift will enable future generations of students to receive the unique and challenging general education curriculum that Professor Jack Fink and his colleagues who created the program envisioned. It means that the foundation of knowledge that this curriculum builds will continue to enhance the lives of San José State University students. From the bottom of our hearts we thank Mrs. Fink for her friendship to and belief in the Humanities Honors Program.
Here are some pictures from the celebration:
Mrs. Fink standing in front of the Humanities Honors Program lecture classroom in Washington Square Hall. Behind her is the plaque commemorating the pioneers of the Humanities Honors Program and their wives.
At the celebration we presented Mrs. Fink with a card signed by the current Humanities Honors classes!
Mrs. Fink- From all of us at Humanities Honors, we thank you!
Harry Powers: From the Inward Eye
DATES: July 28 to September 16, 2012
RECEPTION: Friday, July 27 from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.
Artist's Site: Harry Powers
Harry Powers, Galileo’s Mechanics #2, 2006, bronze, acrylic paint
For decardes Harry Powers has been one of the Bay Area's influential art educators. His students number in the thousands and his impact on the development of the arts in the South Bay Area is strong.
Harry Powers maintains a strong interest in the integration of art and architecture stemming from his student days when he was a member of Stanford's prize winning team in the Collaborative Competition for Student Artists and Architects, sponsored by the American Academy in Rome. For Harry art theory is secondary to the creative process. It follows and attempts to codify the inventions and explorations of artist, poets, and musicians.
In content, Powers’ current work ranges from expressing the dignity of primal cultures, to references of Renaissance structure, and allusions to contemporary astronomy. He feels a resonance among these. His aesthetic choices still echo those long ago childhood experiences of dramatic lighting and the mysteries of the timeless night sky. This exhibition will look at the career and art if this noted teacher. (2D and 3D works)
Copyright © 2012 Triton Museum of Art