Archive: Jul 2015

A former colleague at the University of Minnesota informed me about “I Was Almost Another Dead Black Male,” a short article and video. On his Facebook page Psychology Professor Rich Lee writes, “in the context of the recent string of violence against African Americans by police, here is another tale. This StoryCorps animation is about a young African American man, transracially adopted. It’s another perspective and reminder on the importance of talking about race/racism with our children at a young age to prepare them for the racial violence in the world.” Indeed!

Yesterday I had lunch in the Student Center for the first time. I went to Panda Express, and my fortune cookie message read: “the riches of others makes you more valuable.” In a way, that’s a nice shorthand for describing the job of a Dean, as one of our major tasks is to make sure that the departments in our care are well supported and thriving. Money is probably the first thing that comes to mind when one hears the word “support,” and that is a necessary item, but another important aspect is the ability of department chairs to innovate, to try new things without unnecessary interference from above. I’ve started monthly one-on-one meeting with the chairs, and stress that the purpose of those meetings is not for me to give direction (or, worse, micromanage their decisions), it’s for me to become informed about issues and to help solve problems. It’s also an opportunity to celebrate department successes, and discuss ways in which we can maintain positive momentum. Monthly meetings with 12 department chairs will take a lot of time, but they are well worth the effort. In the end, successful departments lead to a successful college!

This morning I got breakfast at a Whole Foods, and my bill came to $8.02. At first I was annoyed: why can’t they calculate prices and taxes that land the total on the dollar? My second thought was that maybe generating a ton of change is intentional, so that it’s easier to give homeless folks a little something as we walk out of stores. My third thought was about the wages paid to Whole Foods workers. [Don’t ask about how and why my mind skipped from thought to disparate thought!] Earlier in the week I learned about how SJSU sociology students helped raise the minimum wage in San José. That’s the type of story that makes me proud to be in my new post. I’m looking forward to learning about additional examples of the powerful use of the social sciences here in the San Francisco Bay Area!

San José State U’s brand is “Powering Silicon Valley,” which emphasizes the STEM fields — Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. One of my tasks as Dean of the College of Social Sciences will be to advocate the importance of the social sciences. At my first meeting with department chairs we started to discuss some strategies in which the social sciences complement STEM, and other strategies that focus on questioning STEM’s place at the center of the equation. A page on the “Latin Correspondent” website captures many of the central ideas; perhaps I should ask the chairs to read it before our next meeting? Any additional ideas and/or resources I should share?

On July 6, 2015 I became Dean of the College of Social Sciences at San José State University. I’m writing this post at the end of my whirlwind first week. I expected many changes, such as having to learn a slew of new acronyms, and struggling to remember new names. Other items were unexpected, such as discovering that SJSU was featured in the San Jose Rose, White, and Blue parade [I learned this towards the end when the SJSU contingent came through, following a banner that announced that SJSU was the theme], and seeing very few African Americans on campus. A further note about diversity: although I love the wonderful mosaic of people here in San José — at the parade I discovered that a troup of Sikh Scouts exists here — it will take some getting used to having so few African Americans in the area; during an hour at today’s San Jose Obon festival, for example, in a crowd of hundreds I saw only three other African Americans. I’ll have to be on the lookout for larger pockets elsewhere…