Cynthia Teniente-Matson is the first Latina and fourth woman to serve as San Jose State University president since the university was founded in 1857.
Teniente-Matson, 58, the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants, was born in Texas. Her father was a sheet metal worker and her mother worked in retail. She grew up inspired by her mother’s strong work ethic and compassion for others.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in management from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and master’s in business administration from the University of Alaska Anchorage. She received her doctorate in educational leadership from California State University Fresno.
Teniente-Matson takes the helm at San Jose State University during a tumultuous time. She replaces interim President Steve Perez, who stepped in after President Mary Papazian resigned in 2021 after a sexual misconduct scandal. She also faces a student population with a high rate of homelessness. But she has goals to turn the school around and become an integral part of the SJSU community.
One month into her tenure, San José Spotlight sat down with SJSU’s new president to discuss her plans for the university’s future. Her answers have been edited for clarity and length.
SAN JOSÉ SPOTLIGHT: What does it mean to you to be the first Latina and fourth woman to serve as San Jose State University’s president, an institution with a more than 150-year-old history?
TENIENTE-MATSON: It’s an opportunity for us to visually symbolize the importance of diversity and inclusion as a visible role model to communities of color, but specifically Latina and Latino students.
SAN JOSÉ SPOTLIGHT: What are your immediate priorities and goals for your first 100 days?
TENIENTE-MATSON: I’m really leaning in to talking and meeting with students. I’m attending as many events and activities as I can where students are, introducing myself, listening to them, asking them about what’s going on around the university community and what are their hopes and dreams that San Jose State University is helping them to achieve.
I’m really actively engaged in strategic recalibration, looking at what within the strategic plan needs to be slightly modified or altered to meet the world demands post-pandemic in 2023 as we think about education and innovation.
SAN JOSÉ SPOTLIGHT: Some students have demanded the university’s Title IX and Gender Equity office—which oversees sex discrimination, sexual harassment and misconduct—be fully staffed, more transparent and accountable after a federal investigation found the office lacking. What needs to change to ensure the university is adequately investigating sexual assault claims?
TENIENTE-MATSON: Past presidents have expressed their regret and their sorrow for what occurred, and I applaud the brave students and people who had the courage to come forward and make their claims known.
We have bolstered our policies around this area to ensure that complaints are investigated and there’s timely resolution, that there are many avenues for students or… community members to bring forward their concerns and if necessary, if they rise to the level of a formal complaint, to ensure they are properly investigated.
SAN JOSÉ SPOTLIGHT: We’ve heard stories about students sleeping in the library because they can’t afford housing here. Should the university offer a safe parking program so students can sleep safely in their cars?
TENIENTE-MATSON: I’m open to all good suggestions and good ideas. Am I open to it? Yes.
SAN JOSÉ SPOTLIGHT: The cost of living and expensive housing continue to be a deterrent for students in San Jose. What should the university do to provide safe, affordable housing for students?
TENIENTE-MATSON: We are developing new housing initiatives. Campus Village 3… could provide up to 1,000 beds, depending on the cost of construction. We are launching the Alquist project, which looks at affordable housing for faculty, staff and graduate students.
SAN JOSÉ SPOTLIGHT: What do the next five years look like for San Jose State?
TENIENTE-MATSON: Exciting, now is the time to be looking around the corner. The world has changed post-pandemic and our students, our graduates, are going to change the working world. What San Jose State needs to do, and will be doing, is getting ahead of that curve. We have already developed new degrees, particularly in high-demand, high-wage areas… to meet the needs of industry, to meet the needs of top employers.
Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected]
Leave a Reply