San Jose State University and San Jose City Hall are partnering in a bold endeavor—a marketing campaign to help students feel more connected to the city and keep them local after graduation.
They are each investing $100,000 in a citywide branding strategy and student fellowship program to create an easier path to employment for students interested in public service. Mayor Matt Mahan first talked about the idea in a June 9 social media post.
“We want everyone to know we have an exceptional university in the heart of our downtown,” Mahan told San José Spotlight. “Combined, we employ over 10,000 people, not to mention the university’s 36,000 students, most of whom spend the majority of their week in downtown.”
Funding is coming directly from the university and a one-time payment from the city’s general fund under Mahan’s newly approved budget for the 2023-24 fiscal year. The city has faced backlash due to a staffing shortage and a swath of vacant positions across departments, causing frustrations for employees who say they are forced to do extra work.
City and university representatives said they hope this partnership will help close the gap on staffing shortages by assisting students with connecting to local jobs, instead of losing recent graduates to other parts of the Bay Area or out of California entirely.
“A strong partnership between the city and San Jose State is critical for reenergizing downtown, attracting and retaining talent, improving public safety and maximizing resources,” Michelle Smith McDonald, a university spokesperson, told San José Spotlight.
The branding campaign involves increasing the number of signs in downtown San Jose to promote SJSU. The university also proposed adding the school’s mascot, Sammy the Spartan, to some of the signs at key city intersections.
This push echoes what SJSU President Cynthia Teniente-Matson shared as one of her goals stepping into the position in February—to better market the university to attract more students to San Jose from across the nation and place them in local jobs. And it’s not the first time the university and city have collaborated on a massive project – the King Library in downtown is the first in the country to provide both the services offered by a university with those of the public library system.
The mayor said the city also approved a one-time fund of $10,000 to create a university-led survey for SJSU students to share how they perceive public safety downtown. The goal of the survey is to get feedback to help measure public perceptions of safety in downtown and to use the data to shape improvement strategies, according to the budget.
The student fellowship program is still in the early stages, but part of its goal will be to create a direct path to fill city vacancies and keep people in San Jose.
“We are establishing a paid fellowship program with San Jose State University to create a pipeline of future employees for development services, which includes planning and building,” Mahan told San José Spotlight.
McDonald agreed and said the university views the partnership as equally beneficial, especially for students needing work experience.
“A strong relationship with the city is one of the university’s top priorities,” McDonald said. “To effectively address the issues facing our campus, we must work with the city.”
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