Seeking Faculty to Serve on Honors Education Task Force

Sent: September 22, 2020

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

Dear Colleagues,

Well, this has been an “interesting” start to the semester! I leave “interesting” in quotes so that you can provide your own take on the term :) And, while, I am confident we haven’t seen the last interesting turn of events this year, I do believe we have to continue to think forward, to chew on new ideas, and challenge ourselves to imagine what Transformation 2030 really means in practice.

To that end, and as part of SJSU’s continuing commitment to create transformative educational opportunities for the future leaders of San José, Silicon Valley and beyond, I invite faculty to join a university-wide task force to discuss honors education on campus. This conversation is intended to attract the attention of our region’s BIPOC communities, where we hope to engage the most diverse, creative, and curious as well as self-directed learners in the region. The goal is also to build academic programs that will  draw on the talents of passionate students, the excellence of our faculty, and the resources of this region to introduce a 21st century model of interdisciplinary education.

Let me be clear, the goal of this task force is not to replace anything already going on - we may end up moving forward with multiple pathways. But, I do believe there is value in pushing past traditional notions of “honors” to ask: “what sorts of creative models could SJSU develop that attract a dynamic student community to our campus to ask questions about today’s most wicked problems as well as explore our communities’ greatest's strengths and community innovations?” In some ways, I would love to see us develop a conversation about an (un)honors College - something that pushes past historical conversations about honors education and toward a dialogue about how we create radical, new learning spaces responsive to and inspired by the complex and intersectional diversity of our local communities and our students. Maybe what we end up with doesn’t have the word “honors” in it at all. Or we may envision “honor” to mean ‘honoring’ our unique place situated at the crossroads of so many important threads of community. But, we have to start somewhere.

If you are going to put your name forward, you are encouraged to think imaginatively - even radically - about this venture. A new cross-disciplinary program founded with no pre-set curriculum boundaries - or high GPA cutoffs, for example - could offer self-driven student leaders the latitude to work closely with faculty and the region’s leaders to tackle real-world problems. It provides faculty an opportunity to teach multidisciplinary perspectives and guide motivated and ambitious students. It offers local leaders an opening to mentor the brightest go-getters. It fulfills SJSU’s mission to serve a central role in the future of Silicon Valley by training future scholars, community leaders, and entrepreneurs.

I am very excited that Dr. Ruma Chopra, professor of history, and recipient of the ACE fellowship, has agreed to chair the task force. Ruma’s experience in teaching and scholarship, as well as her industry experience (she has worked for high-tech startups, etc.) draw her to this dynamic venture.

Faculty interested in being considered to be part of the task force should fill out the Google Form. Nominations are due by Friday, October 9th. I encourage faculty from any sector of campus to apply. And, don’t worry, we will be bringing staff and student voices to this task force as well. More to come.