GUEST BLOG: San José State University and the Lifeblood of Downtown

San Jose State University

By Dr. Mary A. Papazian, President, San José State University

As my colleagues and I prepare for an upcoming visit to Seattle as part of The Silicon Valley Organization’s 2018 Study Mission, I am pleased to offer some thoughts on San José State University and its key stakeholder role in San Jose.

SVO’s goal on this trip is to learn how the Emerald City has dealt with “The Amazon Effect” while reshaping its downtown core.

The City of San Jose, of course, has its own sizable, impactful organization right in its backyard: With 41,000 students, faculty, and staff populating our campus, San José State University is and will continue to be an enormous asset for the City of San Jose and Silicon Valley.

SJSU occasionally has been less prominent than others when it comes to having a voice on key issues facing the region. No one is to blame; if anything, SJSU itself may have gotten complacent over the years. We may have come to accept the “younger sibling” status conferred upon us by others in relation to institutions like Stanford and UC-Berkeley, despite our being older than both of these esteemed institutions and producing more alumni who drive our region’s workforce needs than any other single institution.

But no more.

Having recently just embarked on a new school year, I believe that 2018-2019 will witness the continued transformation of both San José State University and the City of San José, and the growing and reciprocal relationship between the two.

For those of us at SJSU, that transformation starts with our students. A more engaged and well-prepared student population at San José State, we believe, will go a long way toward connecting us more closely with Silicon Valley and our surrounding communities.

This university must, in my view, be seen as the lifeblood of its community. The City of San Jose should want to invest its time, energy and resources into San José State. But why?

Part of the answer is pure economics. SJSU has nearly 6,500 Silicon Valley employers that recruit from SJSU through job postings and recruiting events. Of those, nearly 1,500 are tech employers. For even more evidence that demonstrates why the SJSU student population matters to employers from both within and outside the region, consider that:

  • SJSU has nearly 8,900 California employer relationships. Of those, nearly 1,700 are tech employers.

  • SJSU has nearly 21,000 global employer relationships. Of those, nearly 3,100 are tech employers.

  • Last year, over 200 tech employers came on campus to recruit thousands of Spartans through job fairs and other recruiting events.

At the same time, we serve diverse employers, not just technology. The top industries that represent over half the registered area employers include internet and software; non-profit; K-12 and other education; healthcare; computer hardware; manufacturing; food and beverage; construction; and advertising/PR/marketing.

The SVO gets it, which is why partnering with them makes sense. For the last year, our career center has partnered with The SVO to ensure that our students have access to quality, high-paying jobs at some of the Valley’s largest employers. This first-of-its-kind partnership is just one example of how SJSU finds, and gives, value through local collaboration.

In addition to developing the next-generation workforce, San José State is working to be a robust ‘player’ in downtown’s ongoing development, the anchor institution that brings expertise, vibrancy, diversity, and energy to our downtown community.

There are several tangible examples of how our commitment to local collaborations are benefitting both the university and the City. I will mention two.

Many readers will be familiar with the unprecedented partnership between the City and University on the Dr. Martin Luther King Library. It has been a tremendous success and a model for other municipalities. In late August, I was honored to help celebrate the 15-year anniversary of the King Library, a vitally important facility that serves as a connector between SJSU’s campus and the City of San José.

An alliance between the university and the City was also the driving force behind the resurrection of the Hammer Theatre.

I don’t think it is a stretch to say that this theatre was not being used to its full potential prior to 2016. But look at it now! It no longer is just a venue for the occasional play. Instead, diverse audiences from across our city and our region are enjoying regular student productions. They are coming for poetry readings. They are seeing vibrant multi-cultural events.

Like all effective partnerships, this one has benefitted both parties.

For the City, the theatre is the cornerstone of a burgeoning civic arts scene and a powerful symbol of what is to come in this ever-evolving downtown. For the University, it is a venue for

engaging our students and introducing to many of them the wonder and excitement of theatre and other live performances.

Downtown—our college town—is vital for our 35,000 students, more than 6000 faculty and staff, and for the many friends and alumni of the University, so we need to be active participants in, contributors to, and shapers of what is going on here.

We, San José State University, consider ourselves one of Silicon Valley’s biggest assets. As a strong, dynamic institution committed to robust partnerships, student success, faculty excellence, and intellectual vitality, San José State is focused on becoming an exemplary 21st century public urban university.

We strive to be part of every meaningful conversation that takes place in this region.

I am looking forward to SVO’s visit to Seattle, as collaborating with The Silicon Valley Organization is key to SJSU’s engagement strategy. I expect we will return to San José armed with fresh ideas, lessons learned, and renewed energy and enthusiasm for work ahead of us.

Together, we will continue to shape the future of San Jose and its downtown.