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Announcing The Robert N. Chang Student Center at SJCC

San José City College is thrilled to announce that its Student Center is getting a new name!

Last month, Financial Aid Director Takeo Kubo presented a welcome resolution to rename the Student Center as The Robert N. Chang Student Center. The resolution passed unanimously with enthusiastic support from board members, Chang Scholars, and the broader SJCC community. 

So today, we’d like to celebrate the long and meaningful relationship between this important organization and our community. 

“I wouldn’t be where I am today without this scholarship.”

SJCC Chang Scholar, Dr. Athena DF Sherman

The Robert N. Chang Charitable Foundation — A Brief History

According to his biography, Robert N. Chang was born in Shanghai in 1927. He came to the United States by way of Hong Kong where he worked as a journalist. Even though Chang was full of drive and determination upon arriving in the U.S, he realized that he was going to need financial help in order to continue his education. He felt lucky to receive assistance in the form of a loan from a dear relative. 

Chang graduated from the University of Washington with honors, worked abroad, and became a highly successful stockbroker, often collaborating with some of the leading investment banks in the U.S. Despite his success, he remained humble and down to earth. Recalling the significance of that family loan, he began supporting young and motivated students who were facing financial barriers to education.

Doriann Tran who is also the International Programs Counselor / Coordinator at SJCC, and liaison to the Chang foundation, said, “Robert Chang’s lasting wishes are embodied in the Robert N. Chang Charitable Foundation, which is administered by Mr. Allan Liu, Mr. Vincent Chang, and Mr. James Chen.”

San José City College Chang Scholar, Dr. Athena DF Sherman presenting her work titled, “Transgender and Gender Diverse Community Connection, Help-Seeking, and Mental Health among Black Transgender Women who have Survived Violence: A mixed-methods analysis” at the Emory School of Nursing.
SJCC Chang Scholar, Dr. Athena DF Sherman presenting her work titled, “Transgender and Gender Diverse Community Connection, Help-Seeking, and Mental Health among Black Transgender Women who have Survived Violence: A mixed-methods analysis” at the Emory School of Nursing.

The Robert N. Chang Charitable Foundation and SJCC

The Robert N. Chang Transferable Scholarship was established in 2001 by Mr. Allan Liu. It has made an immeasurable impact on our community ever since. 

It’s a unique scholarship, because it’s for SJCC students who are seeking to continue their education beyond our campus. Students who receive the full scholarship generally receive $5,000 – $7,000 and those who are awarded a partial scholarship have received $2,500+ for their education. In the 20 years since its inception, the Chang Foundation has drastically changed the lives of 130 transfer students, providing over $1.25 million in scholarship funds. This makes the Chang Foundation our most generous and perhaps our most loyal donor.

Former SJCC President Chui Tsang even made a visit to the recent board meeting to show his support for the renaming of the Student Center, reminding us how the Chang family has never wavered in its support. Tsang recalled how even during the difficult years of the dot-com bust, when Silicon Valley was hit hard and the funds for Chang Scholars might have been reduced, the Chang Foundation stayed steadfast in its support for students.

SJCC’s pairing with the Chang Foundation is a perfect match because they are deeply aligned with our mission — valuing access, opportunity, and social justice in education.

SJCC’s Inspiring Chang Scholars Give Back to Communities

Lots of San José City College’s dedicated staff contributed greatly in presenting the resolution for the renaming of the Student Center. Tran, Laura Adachi (Executive Director of the SJECC District Foundation) and Roland Montemayor (Vice President of Student Affairs at SJCC) played particularly key roles in the process.

In the board meeting, Tran spoke about the immensely positive impact this scholarship has had on Chang Scholars over the years. “The Chang Scholarship represents far more than a payment made to support a student’s education. For many of our SJCC transfer students, the Chang scholarship has helped to inspire and transform their lives in meaningful ways that transcend the classroom. And coupled with our students’ resiliency and determination, the Chang scholarship continues to help our students change our community and our world for the better one student at a time,” Tran said.

Vanessa Payne, San José City College Chang Scholar in 2006, graduates with a Master of Social Work from San José State University.
Vanessa Payne, SJCC Chang Scholar in 2006, graduates with a Master of Social Work from San José State University.

“The Chang scholarship changed my life, my son’s trajectory into his future, and continues to have a positive and lasting impact on the community I now serve.”

SJCC Chang Scholar, Vanessa Payne

Chang Scholars Share Their Stories

When you hear from the Chang Scholars themselves, it’s incredible how each story is so unique yet so similar. Every one of the scholarship recipients has faced great adversity with incredible resilience and strength. And all of them recognize the crucial roles of both a supportive community and the Chang Scholarship in their efforts.

Dr. Athena DF Sherman (@AthenaShermanRN), who received the Chang Scholarship in 2012, went on to receive her PhD in Nursing from John Hopkins University. In support of the renaming resolution, Sherman spoke candidly about the many challenges she faced on her journey. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without this scholarship,” Sherman said.

Like many other Chang Scholars, Sherman is committed to paying it forward. “My work focuses in on transgender and gender diverse folks following severe sexual and physical assault and how to get them to health following those experiences. As a gender fluid person myself, and a survivor of sexual assault, battery, incarceration, and homelessness, it has been my goal to take these stepping stones and give them back to the community which raised me,” Sherman said.

Vanessa Payne, another Chang Scholar, received the award in 2006. She also shared her experiences. “At the time I was ready to transfer to SJSU, I was a single mom to a 2 year old living in a transitional housing program for homeless parents. Being a former foster youth and not having the typical family to fall back on, I was forced with a very difficult decision: finish out my AA at SJCC and start working full time or transfer to SJSU and finish my BA degree,” Payne said.

Thanks to the Chang Scholarship, Payne was able to continue her education, focusing on school full-time and parenting her child. She completed her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Social Work. Now, she works for The Santa Clara County Department of Family and Children’s Services as a child welfare social worker. “The Chang scholarship changed my life,” Payne said.

Other Chang Scholars, like Kenny Gutierrez, attended the board meeting in support of renaming the Student Center. Gutierrez, who received the scholarship in 2009 thanked SJCC and the Chang Foundation for believing in him before he believed in himself.Gutierrez, who had a colorful past before thriving at SJCC — as President of MEChA, VP of Associated Students, among other titles — graduated from UC Berkeley and is now an attorney. He continues to give back as a mentor to young students and collaborates with non-profit organizations in the Bay Area.

“Please understand that I didn’t pull myself up by the bootstraps and do it on my own, but that I had a community of support and people who believed in me,” Gutierrez said.

“Even though I don’t personally know all the students, I have seen a lot of transformation in their confidence and motivation levels and in some ways, wisdom or maturity. When they return to share their stories, I’m amazed but not surprised by the experiences and opportunities they took advantage of or took initiative on in such a short time after transferring from SJCC, to achieve their goals,” Tran said.

“…coupled with our students’ resiliency and determination, the Chang scholarship continues to help our students change our community and our world for the better one student at a time.”

Doriann Tran, SJCC’s International Programs Counselor/ Coordinator & Chang Scholarship Liaison
Allan Liu and James Chen [center left and right] with Chang Scholars at the 18th Annual Chang Scholarship Celebration.

The Chang Scholarship Plays a Critical Role at SJCC

We constantly learn from our Chang Scholars and we value their place in our community. The same goes for the Chang family, because without it, many of our students would not have had the opportunity to share their unique brilliance and give back in such meaningful ways.

“Financial obstacles are one of the most common and impactful barriers one may experience. This award is one of the only mechanisms that students like myself could turn to if they needed help affording the next steps in their education,” Sherman said. “The Robert Chang Foundation works to eliminate financial burden as a barrier.”

“Chang scholars represent single parents, immigrants, abuse survivors, recovering addicts, the homeless, and everything in between. These are also the scholars who go on to be attorneys, social workers, doctors, substance abuse counselors, and work in other community service careers. They go back to help out their communities,” Payne said.

“Our students and college community are deeply grateful for our continued partnership with the Robert N. Chang Foundation,” Tran said. “However, it’s not only the students that have benefitted from the Robert N. Chang Scholarship, but our college community and the Chang Foundation have also learned so much from the students and their unrelenting resilience.”

Vincent Chang and James Chen of the Chang Foundation also echoed this sentiment. “The students talk about how much the foundation has meant to them… I would argue the students mean a lot to the foundation. To hear each one of their stories just gives us more energy and more drive to meet and help the next generation of students as well. And to see so many students be successful and give back to the communities using their history to make an impact… is just amazing,” Chen said.

A snapshot (in the form of a colorful pie chart) of the groups that have been awarded the Robert N. Chang Scholarship (130 students total), representing the diversity of San José City College students and our local community.
A snapshot of the groups that have been awarded the Robert N. Chang Scholarship (130 students total), representing the diversity of SJCC students and our local community.

Look Out For the New Robert N. Chang Student Center!

So we are proud to announce that the Student Center will be renamed The Robert N. Chang Student Center. Which feels like the perfect name for a safe community space where students seek support.

“Naming the Student Center the Robert N. Chang Student Center is not only befitting but it is a small token of our deepest gratitude to the Chang Foundation for their continuous generosity and commitment to our students and community,” Tran said.

Look out for the official event soon! We hope that this change will be reflected sometime in the Fall of 2021. In the meantime, be sure to stay up to date with the latest in Jaguar news and Centennial Stories on The Roar!