President Mary A. Papazian posing in the new SRAC.

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Dr. Mary A. Papazian, a seasoned leader with nearly 30 years of experience as a university professor, academic and administrative leader, joined San Jose State University as its 30th president on July 1, 2016.

As the leader of the founding campus of the California State University and Silicon Valley’s only public university, Papazian — a Southern California native — is firmly committed to student success; open, transparent and inclusive leadership; fostering a culture of curiosity and discovery; and building enduring campus and community partnerships.

At San Jose State University

Papazian is focused on revitalizing communication among and between campus leaders, students, faculty and staff; energizing alumni, supporters and friends of the university; meaningfully elevating engagement with elected, industry and community leaders on important regional policy issues; empowering people across the university singularly to focus on student success; inclusively assessing opportunities to enhance operational effectiveness; and articulating an aspirational vision for SJSU to be America’s preeminent urban public university.   

Notable milestones at SJSU since Papazian’s appointment include the groundbreaking for the Interdisciplinary Science Building—the first new SJSU academic building in 30 years—and approval of plans to build a Science Park; a series of Town Hall events hosted by SJSU’s Institute for the Study of Sport, Society and Social Change; and the launch of a new, 10-year strategic plan known as Transformation 2030.

Previous Appointments

Before coming to SJSU, Papazian was president of Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven, Connecticut. There, her accomplishments included strengthening programs supporting the successful transition of first-year and transfer students; establishing a vision for what will be SCSU’s first-ever comprehensive philanthropic campaign and securing a $3 million gift and a $1.2 million bequest to establish its first endowed chair; opening the new Academic Laboratory and Science Building; expanding international education and study abroad programs; increasing research opportunities for undergraduate students, and expanding scholarships to support student recruitment, retention and completion.

Previously, Papazian was the provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs at Lehman College of The City University of New York, managing a $70 million budget that supported 450 full-time faculty members and 200 staff members, creating a research advisory board, hiring a new director of the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, and developing a research handbook for faculty.

She also served as the dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Montclair State University in New Jersey, and as associate dean of the College of Arts and Science at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, where she began her academic career as an assistant, associate and tenured professor of English.

Academic Interests and Leadership

Papazian holds bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in English from the University of California, Los Angeles. She and husband Dr. Dennis R. Papazian, founding director of the Armenian Research Center at the University of Michigan, Dearborn, have two adult daughters.

Papazian is actively engaged in national and regional volunteer leadership, serving on the boards of Higher Education Resource Services, Association of American Colleges and Universities, Bay Area Council, Silicon Valley Leadership Group and Joint Venture Silicon Valley. She and Dennis both remain actively involved in Armenian historical and cultural efforts.