Cupertino Courier

New SJSU president's top priority: Listening to students

Teniente-matson, fifth leader over past decade, seeks to foster stability, trust

- By Elissa Miolene emiolene@ bayareanew­

Two weeks into her new job as San Jose State University's newest president, Cynthia Teniente-matson welcomed the campus community to hit her up with their questions and concerns with a phone call, email or even a direct message on social media.

After years of tumult and turnover on campus, the university's latest leader insisted she was ready to listen.

Many in the campus community are hopeful that Teniente-matson — the school's first Latina president and fifth leader in the last 10 years — will bring increased stability, trust and accountabi­lity to the founding campus of the California State University system.

“I've seen so many emails about different presidents — interim presidents, new presidents,” said Kayla Solano, a student at San Jose State. “It's great that we actually have a (fixed) president now.”

Teniente-matson's appointmen­t comes in the wake of a decadelong sexual harassment scandal at the university, one that led to a $5 million settlement with more than two dozen student athletes. University President Mary Papazian announced her resignatio­n in October 2021 amid complaints of the administra­tion's mishandlin­g an investigat­ion of former sports trainer Scott Shaw.

In 2021, the U.S. Department of Justice found that SJSU failed to respond to reports of sexual harassment against Shaw — and that “despite widespread knowledge and repeated reports of the allegation­s,” the university failed to protect students from Shaw for over a decade.

Teniente-matson is taking over for interim President Steve Perez, who took over from Papazian. Teniente-matson said Jan. 31 that listening to students will be her top priority.

“The safety, health and well-being of all of our students is of utmost importance to me,” she said. “I want to make sure we remain transparen­t, visible and vigilant (to ensure) we don't have inappropri­ate behavior occurring on


Teniente-matson comes to San Jose State after 30 years in higher education, including her most recent post as president of Texas A&M University-san Antonio, where she is credited with launching several strategic initiative­s and programs to foster higher learning, inclusion and diversity, including the Mays Center for Experienti­al Learning and Community Engagement, the Cisneros Institute for Emerging Leaders, the Institute of Water Resource Science and Technology and the Cyber Engineerin­g Technology/cyber Security Research, according to an announceme­nt by California State University.

And she's not new to

California. The SJSU president was previously at Cal State Fresno from 20042015, serving as vice president for administra­tion and chief financial officer. She also earned a doctorate in educationa­l leadership from Cal State Fresno. Teniente-matson is the first in her family to go to college.

Since taking over Jan. 16, Teniente-matson has gone on a “listening tour” of campus, she said, meeting with the student body president, her leadership team, student athletes, the university newspaper and other student-run groups and clubs.

She's also encouragin­g students to reach out to her — even through direct messages on social media — to share their experience­s. Students have already messaged her on both email and Instagram, Teniente-matson said, and she hopes such communicat­ion will continue flowing.

“I want to stay connected to the students, and to hear from them,” said Tenientema­tson. “I want to learn about their experience­s here, and what they need from the university to be successful. The best way to do that is to be in front of them.”

So far, that's gone over well with the student body. Asma and Aisha Almasarwa, who are sisters and San Jose State students, said they were impressed by what they've seen so far.

“I looked into her mission and goals for the university, and I agree with everything she said,” said Asma, a 20-year-old junior.

Staff, too, are hopeful that Teniente-matson's leadership could lead to a new chapter at the university, one grounded in trust and accountabi­lity.

Jason Laker, a professor of counselor education, said the successive presidenti­al turnovers have been exhausting and demoralizi­ng. But after raising concerns to Teniente-matson in a recent staff meeting, he felt that her responses to his thoughts were good — and that he is looking forward to seeing “good action go along with those good words.”

“I am certainly eager for her to be successful, and I hope that's how time will play out,” said Laker.

In the months ahead, Teniente-matson is looking toward other new chapters for San Jose State. In March, the university will open its first new building in more than 30 years, one that will house interdisci­plinary science programs and the university's wildfire research center.

She's also working to modify SJSU'S strategic plan to help the university adapt to the world postpandem­ic. She's also looking at a new housing project to provide affordable accommodat­ions for faculty, staff and students in the years to come.

At the same time, Teniente-matson is also leaning into what she feels the CSU system stands for: an accessible, affordable and quality education.

“It's an exciting time here at San Jose State University,” said Teniente-matson. “We will continue to be at the heart of innovation, and will continue expanding our reach to a more diverse population.”

 ?? DAI SUGANO — STAFF PHOTOGRAPH­ER ?? Dr. Cynthia Teniente-matson, the new president of San Jose State University, is welcoming questions from the campus community on Jan. 31.
DAI SUGANO — STAFF PHOTOGRAPH­ER Dr. Cynthia Teniente-matson, the new president of San Jose State University, is welcoming questions from the campus community on Jan. 31.

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