Elevating the Voices of Faculty and Staff at SJSU

Sent: April 12, 2022

From: Vincent J. Del Casino, Jr., Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs

Dear Colleagues,

Over the past few weeks, we have had the pleasure to recognize and thank our amazing faculty and staff who continue to serve this institution in incredible ways. Not only are our colleagues doing exceptional work in support of the mission of this institution, many of them are doing it by committing decades of service to SJSU! I found both events incredibly inspiring and uplifting.   
What is also so enjoyable about these events is that we get to hear from our colleagues directly, who are excited to share their passion for SJSU. Each one of our honorees talked about the importance of community and network, showing how their contributions to this institution relies on the partnerships they have developed during their time at SJSU. Passion and community, a sense of true belonging, is what has helped SJSU carry through the last two years. Nha-Nghi Nguyen, of the Psychology department, talked about the “village” that surrounds her in work at SJSU, to include family and friends, while Joel Morales, of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences ACCESS Center talked about how the work of academic advising only works because of amazing campus collaborations. These staff colleagues, who are in academic affairs, were recognized alongside colleagues from across the campus also doing amazing work. You should check out the video that includes all our campus colleagues if you haven’t yet reviewed the celebration. 
I was also inspired by the words, and energy!, of our faculty colleagues. David Chai came out of the gate with such a passion for what he does; it is not surprising he was named Outstanding Professor. LeAnne Teruya talked about her commitment to building learning experiences that allow students to think while doing, even during the pandemic. Scott Shafer not only thanked the colleagues and students who have helped him along the way to his President Scholar award but the animals whose lives he has engaged in his research as well. And, Scott Meyers-Lipton reminded us that the work of any member of our academic community – staff, faculty, or student – is to contribute to our world as public intellectuals. And, as we know, Scott does that very thing in his classes and publications each year.
As I was reflecting on these two events, and on Scott’s comments in particular, I was reminded about the opportunity I had to visit with this year’s cohort of Public Voices Fellows at SJSU, which is constituted by a diverse group of 24 faculty and staff from across the division and campus. In its second year at SJSU, the Fellows in the first two cohorts have delivered more than 120 Op-Ed pieces, commentaries, and thought pieces on the most important issues facing our society today. For those who don’t know, the Public Voices Fellows Program is run by the Op Ed Project, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to “elevate the ideas and knowledge of underrepresented expert voices, including women, and to accelerate solutions to the world’s biggest problems – problems that cannot be solved justly or sustainably without a diversity of voices, expertise, experience and identity.” The application will soon be open for next year’s cohort!
As part of the Public Voices program, the campus gets regular reports about the successes of our fellows. And, the successes are tremendous, with colleagues contributing to a very wide range of outlets, including the LA Times, Mercury News, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Ms. Magazine, Newsweek, Visible Magazine, Latino Rebels, The Hill Reporter, and much, much more. Just this past week, one of our colleagues, Yolanda Wiggins in the School of Sociology and Interdisciplinary Studies published two pieces, one in the LA Times and another in the San Francisco Chronicle. Both take up timely and important topics related to the work of higher education. These pieces complement the outstanding work of her Public Voices colleagues in both the first and second cohort, who continue to publish at an amazing clip. You should check out the nearly 50 pieces and comments that have been produced by this year’s cohort as well as the 70-plus pieces from the first year group (and I know there are even more pieces that aren’t listed here yet)!
In a November 2021 report from the Op Ed Project, they offered a comparison of the successes of all their partners. In that month, two schools topped the list with the most pieces published – Yale and SJSU! This is not a numbers game. But, it does reflect the caliber of our colleagues and the importance of their voices. As Robin McElhatton, our Assistant Director of Media Relations, knows, there are dozens of news outlets regularly seeking out the opinions of SJSU experts. Not a day goes by when I don’t get an email from Robin, who reports out on the contributions of our colleagues to the public discourse.
Of course, these are not the only avenues of publicly engaged scholarship and outreach on this campus. The Human Rights Institute is a leading national voice on human rights issues, while the Institute for the Study of Sports, Society, and Social Change has also developed important programming about the role that sports play in our world today. Both are driving conversations and action-based scholarship on issues that remain front and center in the public consciousness today. The recently built Institute for Emancipatory Education is also asking us how we might reimagine schools and schooling to create a more equitable future, while the H&A In Action programming organized around public engagement in the College of Humanities and the Arts is literally on the “streets” activating how we better map resistance in San José. There are of course many, many more examples, including the Mineta Transportation Institute, the Tax Institute, the Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center, and the Center for Stem Education, to name just a few more. I know I am not doing all the work on campus justice, so I encourage folks to check out even more information about these projects and efforts at SJSU here. And, let me know about other efforts on campus. I am always excited to learn more!! 
I hope that you are as inspired by this work as I am. Every day I learn a bit more about SJSU and its role in this region, state, and planet. I am humbled to be a small part of this community and thankful that I get the opportunity to work with so many outstanding colleagues.
Please continue to remain safe and best of luck with the remaining part of the spring semester!