Excellence in Engaged Learning


ExcEL graphic

Excellence in Engaged Learning (ExcEL) strives to expand the number of students and faculty involved in intensive engaged learning experiences, also known as "high impact practices". To that effort, we are working towards a sustainable system to track, assess, and scale SJSU's efforts in community engaged learning, engaging undergraduates in RSCA (research, scholarship, and creative activity), global/international experiences, utilizing peer educators, and internships for academic credit.

Get Involved in Engaged Learning


Community Engaged Learning

Dr. Elena Klaw is a Professor of Clinical Psychology. She holds a PhD in Clinical-Community Psychology from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and has published in the areas of mentoring, peer leadership, violence prevention, mutual-help, and service-learning. She served as Chair of the Veterans Advisory Committee and is the Director of the Veterans Embracing Transition (VET) Project. She is looking forward to returning to her role as Faculty Director of the Center for Community Learning and Leadership (CCLL). The CCLL is also associated with CommUniverCity which is run by Interim Executive Director, Dr. Katherine Cushing.

In this role Dr. Klaw will focus on:

      • Building collaboration with campus offices and departments to focus on student success
      • Building partnerships that generate external funding for community engagement
      • Assessing the effects of service-learning and other high impact practices on student success and outcomes


Engaging Undergrads in Research

Dr. Nidhi Mahendra is an Associate Professor of Communicative Disorders and Sciences with research and teaching expertise in aging and Alzheimer's disease, stroke rehabilitation, and multicultural issues in health care. A long-term CSU faculty member and active researcher, she played a key role in helping to launch Cal State East Bay's Center for Student Research. Her interest in undergraduate research stems from her own career-changing experience as a student researcher, her experiences mentoring student researchers, and a desire to support faculty in successfully mentoring and training undergraduate researchers at SJSU.

Dr. Mahendra  is currently focusing on:

      • Gathering data on how faculty and departments are currently incorporating undergraduates in RSCA
      • Identifying key areas/ issues to address moving forward to increase the number of students engaged in RSCA
      • Build a sustainable infrastructure to track undergraduate students engaged in RSCA
      • Facilitate support for faculty to create synergy between their RSCA and teaching and service learning
      • Collaborate with Peer Connections and other undergraduate research programs at SJSU to scale curriculum support for students engaged in RSCA


Global Experiences

Dr. Katharine K. Olson is an assistant professor in medieval and early modern world history. She was born in San Francisco and grew up in Los Altos. She received a B.A. with honors in History from the University of Chicago and a joint Ph.D. in History and Celtic Studies from Harvard University. She held postdoctoral fellowships from Oxford and Harvard as well as the British Academy. Prior to SJSU, she spent substantial time living, studying, and working abroad in the U.K., and was a Lecturer in Medieval and Early History at Bangor University in Wales, where she remains an Honorary Research Associate, and taught through the medium of Welsh as well as English. At Bangor, she directed international programs, students, and  exchanges for the School of History among other posts. At SJSU she has been actively involved in student affairs and support, and since 2016, she has been a Faculty in Residence for CV2 and also (from 2017) CVB.

Dr. Olson is currently focusing on:

      • Hosting conversations with faculty and colleges about how they define global experiences
      • Creating an inventory of existing global experiences
      • Assisting CIES in their development of a strategic plan for global experiences
      • Creating a community of faculty engaged in global experiences


Internships for Academic Credit

Dr. Tabitha Hart is an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at SJSU. Dr. Hart has been involved in SJSU's internship policies and procedures since 2012; among other activities she directs her department's internship program, served as the Faculty Lead on SJSU's Internship Faculty Advisory Committee (IFAC), and authored a report for GUP on SJSU's internships for academic credit.

Dr. Hart is currently focusing on:

      • Supporting faculty who are involved in creating, running, and/or updating departmental internship (for academic credit) programs
      • Meeting with departments to better understand both their issues with implementing the new internship policies and ways the university can support them
      • Hosting professional development workshops and one on one support to faculty to ensure UOAs exist for their sites and students are using S4
      • Creating a community of faculty engaged in supporting internships for academic credit

Learn more about Internships for Academic Credit

Students as Partners

Dr. Faith Kirk teaches First Year Writing in the Department of English and Comparative Literature where she develops curricula and best practices to support the year-long course model in “Stretch” English.

Dr. Kirk is currently focusing on:

      • Engaging a broader base of faculty in utilizing peer educators in their classes
      • Supporting faculty across the university who are partnering with undergraduate Peer Educators from Peer Connections in their courses
      • Providing faculty focused resources to help optimize the faculty-peer educator relationship