August 31, 2020

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From left to right: Burcu Ellis, William Cochlan, Leticia Márquez-Magaña, Michael Goldman, Nalini Libby

SF State recognizes faculty, staff for outstanding teaching and service

At the virtual Opening Convocation marking the beginning of Fall semester, the University honored faculty and staff members for exceptional service to the SF State community. Four faculty members received the Distinguished Faculty Award, which has been given each year since 2007 to recognize excellence in teaching, service and professional achievement. In addition, one staff member was honored with the Distinguished Staff Award for Excellence in Service, which recognizes the efforts of staff members who enhance work conditions at the University. This year’s award recipients:

Burcu Ellis: Excellence in Teaching Award (Tenured Faculty)

Ellis is a professor in the Department of International Relations, where she started as an assistant professor in 2003. She has played an integral role in shaping undergraduate and graduate curricula for the department since joining the University. For example, she developed two certified general education undergraduate courses, “Refugees in International Perspective” and “Muslim Societies in Transition,” and the graduate course “International Migration.” Ellis’ colleagues say she brings her own ethnographic research to life in her instruction, designing innovative courses in which students critically analyze issues of identity, migration and belonging in a globalized world. These courses are designed to be inclusive of students of different backgrounds, creating a classroom culture that promotes equity, understanding and tolerance.

William Cochlan: Excellence in Teaching Award (Lecturer)

Cochlan is an adjunct professor of Biology for the Estuary and Ocean Science Center, where he has worked since 1998. At the center, he teaches various classes and also maintains an active, extramurally funded research program. As a way to better engage his students, Cochlan explains scientific concepts in the context of everyday life experiences. His colleagues applaud him for valuing competency over curricula and teaching his students an important piece of career advice: Good knowledge with bad professionalism goes nowhere.

Leticia Márquez-Magaña: Excellence in Professional Achievement Award

A professor of Biology, Márquez-Magaña joined SF State in 1994. Since then, her research focus has evolved from microbial genetics to health equity. She has published 35 peer-reviewed articles in top-notch journals and has garnered highly competitive grants. Although microbial genetics and health equity require vastly different skill sets, her colleagues have commended her ability to consistently secure federal grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health throughout her transition.

Michael Goldman: Excellence in Service Award (Tenured Faculty) 

Goldman joined SF State in 1988 and is currently a professor and former chair of the of the Department of Biology. During his 12 years serving as chair, Goldman oversaw tremendous growth in the number students choosing Biology as their major. In the last three years alone, he has served on the Evaluation Committee for Academic Institutional Research, the University Academic Assessment Advisory Committee, the Strategic Issues Committee of the Academic Senate and the Academic Senate. One of the hallmarks of his career is the Personalized Medicine conference that he launched, now in its 11th year.

Nalini Libby: Excellence in Service (Staff)

Libby is the academic operations manager for the School of Cinema at SF State. She has been employed by the University in different capacities since 2006 and is also an alumna of SF State, already demonstrating a high level of commitment to the University. Libby has become an integral and essential member of the School of Cinema, exceeding expectations and requirements of her job title. “Without Nalini’s constant work, the basic functions of the School of Cinema would grind to a bumpy stop,” one faculty member said.

Each of this year’s award recipients received a $4,000 stipend. That stipend is funded in perpetuity by the generous support of the SF State Foundation and its partnership with the Academic Senate. 

Cathy Samayoa

Biology Department rebuilds lab courses to prepare for Fall

From the way we work to the way our society handles law enforcement and racial justice, 2020 has been a year marked by rethinking what’s possible. So why not rethink the way we teach, too? That’s the goal of BioSLAM, or Biology Summer Lab Activity Modification, a weeks-long effort in the Biology Department to overhaul the lab curriculum — not just to make it up-to-date and ready for remote instruction, but to ensure that courses incorporate racial justice and equity.

“Two things happened at once,” explained Biology Department Chair Laura Burrus. “One was that we had the pandemic and we went to remote learning. And then came a lot of energy around Black Lives Matter, the bubbling up of years of pent-up frustration around the lack of action. It seemed in some ways like a perfect storm. But in some ways, it’s also a perfect opportunity.”

More than 60 members of the department chose to participate, splitting into small groups to develop individual lessons that will translate well to remote instruction and deal with topics where the science of biology intersects with race — like health disparities experienced by underrepresented groups in the discipline. The team included not just faculty and staff but graduate teaching assistants like Maria José Pastor, who bring their own unique expertise. “Teaching assistants have a fresh kind of perspective of being able to still identify as a student, still able to relate and empathize,” Pastor explained.

Being involved in BioSLAM has given Pastor the chance to help shape the department’s focus at a time when educators are being forced to expand their thinking about how biology skills are taught. “We can show that science is not just based on coming in and sitting in a lab,” she said. “Now we get to create new lessons that encourage people to think beyond the narrow box of what they presume a scientist is.”

Learn more about the Biology Department’s lab curriculum changes on the SF State News site

Aerial view of a person sitting at a desk using a computer.

Professors share tips on healthy tech usage during pandemic

During the COVID-19 pandemic, technology has proved to be a double-edged sword. It’s made it possible for us to work and learn remotely to reduce the spread of the virus, but it can also be a pain in the neck ... literally. Gazing at computer and phone screens too long produces common side effects, including neck, shoulder and back pain and eye strain. We turned to Professors of Recreation, Parks, Tourism and Holistic Health Erik Peper and Richard Harvey — co-authors of the new book “Tech Stress: How Technology Is Hijacking Our Lives, Strategies for Coping, and Pragmatic Ergonomics” — for tips on avoiding issues associated with technology overconsumption.

Get up and move

About every 20 minutes, stand up and move your body. Consider doing a quick dance to a favorite song or taking a walk around the block (don’t forget to wear your face covering and stay six feet from people outside your household). “It will feel silly, yet actively moving is one of the quickest energizers,” said Harvey. Stretching and moving will also relax those muscles that you tense constantly when working at a desk, he added.

Think you’ll forget to take a break? The free Stretch Break app is a great tool to remind you.

Blink and look far off

Our blinking rate significantly decreases while looking at a screen, which contributes to eye strain, Peper explains. A good way to address this is by blinking every time you click on a hyperlink or after you finish typing a paragraph.

He also says it’s important to relax eye muscles from time to time. How to do that? Look far ahead. “Looking out into the distance disrupts constant near-focus muscle tension in the eyes,” Peper said. “It may not be obvious, but this exercise can ease those muscles tremendously.”

Avoid phones right before bed

Many people use their phones before bed, which can make it more difficult to sleep. Harvey recommends taking a break from your phone one hour or more before bedtime.

“Electronic screens emit blue light, which can send a signal to your brain that it’s daytime,” he said. “This suppresses your body’s production of the hormone melatonin, which helps your body know when it’s time to sleep.”

Harvey adds that reading or watching content that is thought-provoking or anxiety-inducing may stimulate the mind and promote wakefulness.

Read more about Peper and Harvey’s work-at-home advice

Library services correction and update

Editor’s note: The item about Library services in the Aug. 24 edition of CampusMemo contained some errors and outdated information. An updated version of the article follows.

Although classes are meeting largely through online modalities during the Fall semester, the J. Paul Leonard Library will continue to offer a variety of services to the SF State community. Watch for a start date within the next few weeks for SF State faculty, staff and students to begin to submit online requests for circulating books to be mailed or shipped to their home addresses, as well as to request books and media using CSU+ and other interlibrary loan services. Books previously checked out can be returned to the external book return slots located outside the first floor quad and Holloway Avenue entrances. Returned items will be quarantined prior to Library staff checking them back in with any due dates extended.

Research assistance is available 24/7 by chat from the Library website. Library faculty liaisons for departments and programs are listed at Faculty members can now reserve one of the six group study rooms in the first floor Research Commons for use as an individual single-occupancy teaching space. Reservations are available 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and can be made up to six months in advance with no limit to the duration of the reservation within the available time bands or to the number of advance reservations. Send requests to Learn more about available Library services at

College of Liberal & Creative Arts Excellence Awards

The College of Liberal & Creative Arts presented its third annual Excellence Awards to faculty and staff on Aug. 20. The seven winners were announced at the college’s opening meeting for the 2020 – 2021 academic year, held by video conference. The winners:

  • Excellence in Teaching (Tenured/Tenure-track): Shelley Wilcox, Philosophy
  • Excellence in Teaching (Lecturer): Crystal Wong, English Language and Literature
  • Excellence in Professional Growth (Research and Scholarship): Justin Tiwald, Philosophy
  • Excellence in Professional Growth (Creative Endeavors): Weimin Zhang, Cinema
  • Excellence in Service: Mitra Ara, Modern Languages and Literatures
  • Staff Excellence (Department): Rosa Valencia, Design
  • Staff Excellence (College): Irina Simon, Lead Scheduler

NSF funds new Computer Science scholarship program

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded SF State a nearly $1 million grant to help strengthen and diversify the pool of qualified AI scientists in the U.S. The U.S. lags behind other countries in creating a well-trained AI workforce, and a growing diversity crisis in the field is one of the main underlying reasons. To address this, Associate Professor of Computer Science Anagha Kulkarni and University colleagues applied for an NSF grant to create a new scholarship that would bolster retention of low-income URM+ (underrepresented minority, female, first generation) students. Earlier this month, NSF awarded $999,987 to the proposed program, known as AI-STAARS (Artificial Intelligence Scholarships That Improve Academic Achievement, Retention and Career Success). Over four years, AI-STAARS will offer 80 low-income freshman Computer Science students year-long scholarships as well as a wrap-around support system that promotes steady academic, social and professional progress. The program is expected to launch next year.

Kulkarni served as principal investigator on the grant proposal in collaboration with three co-principal investigators: Professor of Computer Science Ilmi Yoon, Assistant Professor of Computer Science Pooyan Fazli and Assistant Professor of Psychology Shasta Ihorn.

PINC program receives Genentech Foundation grant

The Genentech Foundation has graciously awarded the Promoting Inclusivity in Computing (PINC) program a $580,750 grant. This GEN-PINC grant will provide scholarships and mentor support to 10 PINC students starting this fall. Selected students in the program will receive $4,500 for the whole academic year.

Through the GEN-PINC program, scholarship recipients will have the opportunity to collaborate on projects with researchers from industries and other academic institutions such as Genentech, IBM and Stanford. The projects will help students strengthen their computational training, receive mentorships and establish professional relationships in preparation for careers post-graduation.

The Department of Computer Science thanks the principal investigators who submitted this grant — Anagha Kulkarni, Ilmi Yoon and Pleuni Pennings — and Genentech for the generous award. 

CEETL launches Fall cohort of Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Institute

Faculty are invited to enroll in the Center for Equity and Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CEETL) JEDI PIE Institute, which builds a community of JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) protagonists through 10 hours of practice of developing anti-racist pedagogy and dismantling white supremacy in online teaching. Developed and facilitated by expert SF State faculty, this institute will be spread out over two months at the start of the Fall semester, available now through Oct. 23. The offering will be completely self-paced and asynchronous, with the exception of one required visit with the facilitators during an office hour at your convenience. For more information and to register, please visit the CEETL website

Loaner laptops available for students

Students can request a loaner laptop for the Fall semester by submitting a form available on the University website. Students can also submit laptop requests by going to the University service portal, entering “laptop” in the search and choosing “Fall Semester 2020 Laptop Loan Request.” Library staff will contact students to arrange the loan and ship the laptop.

New photos available for University use

With most SF State courses and operations offered remotely this semester due to COVID-19, it can be difficult to find photographs for your social media posts or web needs that depict University community members practicing physical distancing on campus or wearing appropriate face coverings. To help, Strategic Marketing and Communications has added photos to its online collection of campus images that reflect the current reality. To find and download the images, go to the Remote Learning folder in the University photo collection. Please note: The images are restricted for use for SF State or CSU purposes.

Student employment and I-9 verification

Student employment eligibility verification via form I-9 for campus employment is still being conducted, but now by appointment only, over Zoom. When a student accepts a position, it is important that hiring departments/units first check the student’s service indicators in Campus Solutions to see if they are already I-9 verified. If the student is not already I-9 verified, then the student should request an appointment for I-9 verification via email to The student will be sent a Zoom link when the appointment is confirmed. For this appointment, students must present identification in accordance with the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services list of acceptable documents. All documents must be unexpired and presented in person over Zoom (no photocopies or pictures on devices). International students must first visit the Office of International Programs to begin their I-9 verification process. Campus jobs for students are posted on Handshake.

Become a Safe Zone ally

The SF State Safe Zone Ally program is looking for staff, faculty and administrators to become safe zone allies for the campus LGBTQ+ community. The Safe Zone Ally program’s mission is to foster a welcoming, inclusive and equitable campus environment by building a support network for people of all gender and sexual identities. Safe Zone allies are active and visible volunteers who are open to talking to members of the LGBTQ+ community in a confidential and supportive environment. To become a Safe Zone ally, volunteers must complete a Safe Zone Ally training, which are offered throughout the academic year. The next training will be held virtually in two parts: from 1 to 4 p.m. on Fridays, Nov. 6 and 13.  

You must pre-register in order to participate. To RSVP or get further details, contact Rick Nizzardini at More information is also available on the Safe Zone Ally website

First Fridays Fun series launches with analytics talk Sept. 4

The Lam Family College of Business invites students, staff, faculty and alumni to attend First Fridays Fun, an informal social and educational event held on the first Friday of every month. The inaugural event will feature analytics industry veteran David McBride giving his talk “Analytics on the Beach: Industry and Career Insights for Retail, Media and CPG.” McBride is senior vice president of digital solutions and consulting at Course5 Intelligence, a product and solutions company that drives digital transformation using analytics, insights and AI for many of the world’s largest, most influential brands. His talk will be available on Zoom starting at 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 4. The event is free, but an RSVP is required. RSVP via Zoom

Fall 2020 Virtual Career Fair schedule

Career Services and Leadership Development (CSLD) will be offering multiple virtual career fairs where students can engage with employers in the months ahead. Fair themes and dates scheduled for this fall are:

Part-Time Job Fair

11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10


10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 8

Career and Internship Fair — Day 1

10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 14

Career and Internship Fair — Day 2

10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 15

These career fairs will be held via Handshake's new virtual fair platform. For more information and links to register, visit the CSLD website

In memoriam: Moses Rischin

Professor Emeritus of History Moses Rischin died Aug. 17, the day after he and his wife Ruth celebrated their 61st wedding anniversary. His B.A. (1947) and M.A. (1948) were from Brooklyn College, and his Ph.D. (1957) from Harvard. After teaching at Brandeis and University of California, Los Angeles, he came to SF State in 1964 and retired in 2002.

Rischin’s specialty was U.S. immigration history and the history of American Jews. He played a leading role over many years in promoting understanding of immigrants’ contributions to the diversity of American society and influenced many of those developing a “new” (more realistic, less White-Anglo-Saxon-Protestant focused) social history in the 1960s. His dissertation, “Jewish life and labor in New York City, 1870-1914,” was published in 1962 as “The Promised City: New York’s Jews, 1870-1914.” The book was influential, and a third edition appeared in 1977.

A founder of the Immigration and Ethnic History Society, Rischin served as its president and on the editorial board for the society’s Journal of American Ethnic History. He was among the founders and directors of the American Jewish Historical Society and took special interest in the scholarly work of the Judah L. Magnes Museum in Berkeley, where he directed its Western Jewish History Center, now part of the University of California, Berkeley. Staff there thought of him as “the father of Western Jewish history.” He was honored by a festschrift, “An Inventory of Promises: Essays on American Jewish History in Honor of Moses Rischin” (1996), and the creation of an annual lecture in his name by the Western Jewish History Center.

Read Rischin’s biography the Department of History webpage

Mabalon recognized as woman “who changed America”

Late Associate Professor of History Dawn Mabalon was included in a slide show article about women who changed America. “Dr. Dawn Bohulano Mabalon was a passionate activist who dedicated her life to chronicling Filipina/o-American history in California and the U.S.,” said the entry on Mabalon, which appeared on the MSN website. “Born and raised in Stockton, California, Mabalon was a tireless advocate for saving the Little Manila neighborhood home to the largest Filipina/o population in the U.S.”

Make that TWO thumbs up for the School of Cinema

A week after Moviemaker named SF State one of the top film programs in the U.S. and Canada, the Hollywood Reporter included the University in its annual film school rankings. SF State’s School of Cinema was #19 on this year’s Hollywood Reporter top 25 list.

Rocha takes a deep dive into fish hybridization

Biology Faculty Member Luiz Rocha was interviewed by Forbes about the hybridization of angelfish in coral reefs. An associate curator and Follett Chair of Ichthyology at the California Academy of Sciences, Rocha is an expert on speciation — the formation of new species — in coral reef fish. Angelfish are unique in that they crossbreed with other fish species so prolifically, resulting in a wide variety of hybrids. The degree to which this happens in angelfish has only been recognized recently, and Rocha has a theory why: They’re photogenic. “Now with underwater photography, the internet and genetics, our ability to detect [hybrids] greatly increased,” he said. “Especially in groups as charismatic as angelfishes.”

Logan writes about the firms keeping big tech union-free

Unionization in the private sector is at a record low. However, a handful of little-known law and consulting firms do much of the dirty work that keeps companies and other organizations union-free. Lam Family College of Business Professor of Labor and Employment John Logan published an article in The Conversation detailing these anti-union efforts. “I’ve been studying these firms for two decades and have chronicled the key roles they have played in undermining an American workers’ federally protected right to organize,” Logan said. “Their tactics, abetted by weak labor laws, have turned what should be a worker-driven process into essentially a choice being made by companies.” Read the full article online.