May 11, 2020

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Students celebrating at commencement

Virtual Commencement date announced

SF State will hold a virtual Commencement ceremony for graduating students at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, June 18. The move comes in response to a recent survey that determined that the vast majority of students would like two Commencement celebrations: a virtual ceremony this spring and an in-person ceremony once COVID-19 mitigations allow.

It is hoped that the in-person Commencement can be held next spring. More details about next month’s virtual ceremony will be added to the Commencement website as soon as they are available.

Greta Snider working in her garage

Faculty members rise to the shelter-in-place challenge with remote instruction

How do you teach a weightlifting class with no weights? If you’re Lecturer of Kinesiology John Penacerrada, the answer is simple: You improvise.

“I’ve been telling students that if you don’t have dumbbells or kettlebells or whatnot, get your backpack and fill it with some books,” said Penacerrada. “It’s about being resourceful and still getting a good workout out of what we can do.”

Penacerrada is just one of hundreds of SF State faculty members who are now teaching students remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Between adapting exercise routines, improvising laboratory experiments and connecting with students through forward-thinking technology, instructors across the University are doing what they do best: delivering a comprehensive and engaging education.

In Professor of Biology Katharyn Boyer’s “Wetland Ecology” course, students designed and started an experiment using plants raised in the greenhouse at SF State’s Estuary and Ocean Science Center. Rather than cutting the experiment short, Boyer transferred the experiment piece by piece to the deck of her own home, placed under a translucent table that protects the plants from the elements while letting in sunlight.

A longtime proponent of remote teaching techniques, Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering Zhaoshuo Jiang earned a CSU faculty innovator award for his creative use of technology in the classroom. Jiang acknowledges that remote learning comes with challenges and limitations, but also says that it gives students more opportunities to participate in their classes. “Before classes went online, I was hosting virtual office hours to promote interactions with students and provide access to those Q&A sessions from anywhere, anytime,” Jiang explained. Holding these virtual office hours means that students with long commutes or busy work schedules have the same chance to engage and learn as their peers.

For Professor of Cinema Greta Snider, the key to transitioning to remote teaching was decidedly low-tech. In her “Material Cinema” course, students learn how to creatively shoot (and damage) physical film to create interesting visual effects. When the shelter-in-place requirement was announced, Snider (pictured, above left) leapt into action, individually mailing students rolls of film containing found footage for them to work with. When students complete their experimentation at home, they mail the film back to Snider so she can digitize the film for editing. She’s embraced technology in other ways, though: Her classes have hosted demonstrations by visiting artists over Zoom.

Learn more about how faculty members finding innovative solutions to the challenges of remote instruction on the SF State News website


Professor of International Relations Burcu Ellis

Distinguished Faculty and Staff Award winners announced

The Academic Senate is pleased to announce the recipients of SF State’s 2020 Distinguished Faculty and Staff Awards. The honorees were presented at the final meeting of the 2019-2020 Academic Senate by the chair of the Faculty and Staff Honors and Awards Committee, Teaster Baird. The awards come with a $4,000 stipend provided by the SF State Foundation Board. An in-person celebration of the winners’ accomplishments will be scheduled when possible. The awardees:

Excellence in Teaching (Tenured)

Burcu Ellis (pictured), Department of International Relations, College of Liberal and Creative Arts

Excellence in Teaching (Lecturer)

William Cochlan, Department of Biology, College of Science and Engineering

Excellence in Professional Achievement

Leticia Marquez-Magaña, Department of Biology, College of Science & Engineering

Excellence in Service (Tenured)

Michael Goldman, Department of Biology, College of Science & Engineering

Excellence in Service (Staff)

Nalini Libby, School of Cinema, College of Liberal & Creative Arts

ICCE Civic & Community Engagement Awardees announced

The Institute for Civic and Community Engagement (ICCE) has announced the recipients of its 2020 Annual Civic & Community Engagement Awards.

Faculty Awardees for Excellence in Service Learning

Professor for the School of Design Ricardo Gomes and Professor and Chair of Asian American Studies Russell Jeung

Staff Excellence in Community Engagement

Research Technician for Research & Sponsored Programs Rebecca Mendez

The full list of awardees is available on the ICCE website

Undergraduate Admissions and Student Outreach Services merge

Effective April 1, the two units Undergraduate Admissions and Student Outreach Services merged into one larger unit. The name of the unit is Undergraduate Admissions and Recruitment (UGAR). As one larger unit under one department head with several associate directors, the Division of Enrollment Management will be better poised to compete in this ultra-competitive higher education landscape. Also as of April 1, Camille Rieck-Armstrong is the interim director of Undergraduate Admissions and Recruitment. 

University Budget Committee seeks staff representative 

The University Budget Committee (UBC) is charged with providing the University President with advice and recommendations related to budget policy, planning and review. Committee members represent campus leadership, faculty, staff and student government. The current committee charter calls for a represented staff member to serve on the committee. All staff are welcome to self-nominate or nominate a peer. The deadline for nominations is May 15. Please contact Nancy Ganner at for a nomination form.

Changes to bus, Muni service

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) has altered some Muni and bus routes. Specifically:

  • The 28 19th Ave. line is currently running from Van Ness and North Point to Daly City Bart Station every 10 to 20 minutes Monday through Friday with no weekend service.   
  • The 28 Rapid (28R) 19th Ave. line is suspended due to Covid 19 impacts until further notice. 
  • The 29 Sunset is currently running every 10 to 20 minutes. 

Faculty and staff who are still coming to campus using public transportation should check SFMTA’s 19th Ave. bus map

or its COVID-19 Muni Core Service Plan for further details.

Academic Senate report

The Academic Senate met on Tuesday, May 5, via Zoom for the final meeting of the 2019-2020 Senate. The senate:

  • Approved revisions to the following policies:
    • #F15-160, Lecture Faculty
    • #S18-196, Withdrawal from Courses
    • #S19-242, Academic Calendar
    • #F11-145, Department Chairs and Equivalent Unit Directors
    • #S13-18, Leaves with Pay
  • Approved a new policy on Restructuring Academic Units.
  • Approved revisions to the Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Arts, the Master of Arts in Mathematics and the Minor in Persian Studies.
  • Approved a new Master of Science in Data Science and Artificial Intelligence.
  • Adopted by general consent resolutions thanking the outgoing 2019-2020 SF Academic Senate and outgoing Academic Senate Chair Nancy Counts Gerber.
    The full agenda, meeting materials and minutes can be found on the senate website

Statistical software discussion with an intro to SPSS, May 11

Associate Professor of Recreation, Parks and Tourism Richard Harvey will discuss some relative strengths and limits of statistical software, focusing on the Statistical Package for the Social Science (SPSS), from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday, May 11, via Zoom

Meeting ID: 918 6901 4714. Password: 961866. In addition to ‘R’ statistical software used on campus, SPSS has a variety of advantages. For example, SPSS is relatively easy to learn, is currently used by a variety of faculty on campus and has a large number of support resources ranging from online forums to YouTube tutorials.

Skillsoft educational technology conference, May 13

Educational technology company Skillsoft will host its annual global conference virtually on May 13. “Perspectives 2020: Unleash Your Greatness” will explore digital education innovations through case studies, panels and debates. Registration for the virtual conference is free. Further details and registration information is available on the Skillsoft website

“Beyond Beginner! PowerPoint 2016” demo via Zoom, May 19

Information Technology Services (ITS) has rebranded its “Intermediate PowerPoint” demo as an advanced beginner session based on feedback from its recent inaugural session. The content in this rebranded session — which will be held from 2 to 3 p.m. Tuesday, May 19 — is identical to the earlier session, so if you attended in April there is no need to sign up again. You can register for the rebranded session, “Beyond Beginner! PowerPoint 2016,” via Qualtrics. In the meantime, ITS is in the process of designing a true intermediate-level PowerPoint session, which will be advertised in CampusMemo when it’s ready to roll out.

Gerontology program information session for prospective students, May 21

The School of Public Affairs and Civic Engagement’s (PACE) Gerontology Program is holding one more info session for prospective students from noon to 1 p.m. Thursday, May 21, via Zoom. Participants will need to download the Zoom platform in order to join. Details are available on the PACE and Gerontology Program websites.

The PACE Gerontology Admissions Committee will begin to review completed applications for the fall 2020 admissions cycle. Applicants must submit all application materials by the Aug. 15 deadline. If you have questions, please contact Professor Darlene Yee-Melichar at

SF State welcomes persons with disabilities and will provide reasonable accommodations upon request. If you would like reasonable accommodations for these Zoom sessions, send an email to


Kevin Kelly

With his partners in MindWires, an online education consulting firm, Graduate College of Education Lecturer Kevin Kelly has launched a podcast about teaching via remote modalities during the pandemic. In its first three episodes, “COVID Transitions” has looked at the challenges of planning for the fall 2020 semester, the value of student input and what Kelly calls a “hybrid flexible” education model, which melds face-to-face and online elements. An important factor universities can’t forget, Kelly says, is the need for flexibility based on what works best for individuals. “In some cases we may see a return to the classroom, but not every student can return,” he said in the first episode. “[A hybrid flexible approach would give] the students the choice of whether or not they attend online synchronously, in-person synchronously or online asynchronously. It provides the greatest amount of opportunities for students to succeed.” Downloads and transcripts of each episode are available on the MindWires website.


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Mahoney weighs in on pandemic gap years

A guest editorial by SF State President Lynn Mahoney was recently featured in the San Francisco Chronicle and subsequently reprinted on websites such as MSN. The op-ed examined whether prospective college freshmen should consider taking a “gap year” because of disruptions to higher education caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Mahoney’s answer was clear: “For most students, the answer should be an emphatic no,” she wrote. “This is not the time to pause or decline an opportunity to attend a four-year university. This is the moment to persist, to take that very important first step to a degree that promises upward mobility for students, for their families and for their communities.” Mahoney went on to examine the many reasons why delaying their education would be a costly misstep for prospective freshmen. Read the op-ed in its entirety on the Chronicle website.

Yee-Melichar, Flores and Renwanz team up for textbook

Professor and Coordinator of Gerontology Darlene Yee-Melichar, Lecturer of Gerontology Cristina Flores, an alumna, and Associate Professor Emerita of Nursing Andrea Renwanz Boyle co-authored the newly revised textbook “Assisted Living Administration and Management, Second Edition: Effective Practices and Model Programs in Elder Care” (Springer Publishing Company). This comprehensive text empowers current and future assisted living administrators to employ effective practices, understand model programs and learn the necessary tools and tips to maximize the overall health, safety and comfort of residents in their care. The second edition includes six new chapters on evolving topics, such as interprofessional practice, home and community-based services as alternatives to assisted living, information and communication technology, LGBT issues, memory care units, and palliative and hospice care.

Yarbough considers the pandemic’s impact on the homeless

Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice Studies Dilara Yarbough wrote an article for Ms. Magazine about a potential silver lining to the COVID-19 pandemic: the crisis might bring about a long overdue shift in how local governments approach homelessness. Because COVID-19 can spread swiftly through homeless populations, cities are now considering moving unhoused people into vacant hotel rooms rather than simply arresting them, as in the past. “Advocates have been asserting for years that housing — a door to lock, protection from violence and the elements—is a human right. But instead of safe housing, governments have invested in police responses to homelessness, responses that all too often displace unsheltered women into isolated and unfamiliar areas where they become vulnerable to assault,” Yarbough wrote. “In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, housing justice organizers have marshalled widespread concern about public health to push policymakers to stop policing poverty and instead invest in housing and care. If this campaign succeeds, it will be the most important feminist victory of the decade.”

Platas presents at Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation event

Assistant Professor of Child and Adolescent Development Linda M. Platas was an invited speaker on early math development in low-income contexts at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Consultation on the Application of the Science of Teaching Foundational Literacy and Numeracy in Low-Income Contexts March 30 and 31. The workshop convened experts in teaching in low- and middle-income countries to establish what is already known about effective classroom practices and to identify areas for needed future research.

Samayoa recruits special research partner: her mom

Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Health Equity Research Lab Cathy Samayoa was recently featured on the podcast “Salud Talks,” which explores health promotion research. Samayoa discussed her research on the impacts of stress on the development of breast cancer and her efforts to include a particularly vulnerable population: Latinas. “If you look in the literature, a lot of studies who don’t have either black women or Latinas will say it’s a hard-to-reach population. ‘They don’t want to participate. It’s more expensive.’ They list all the challenges,” Samayoa said. “So the first challenge for us was: can we actually get them to participate? So I created YouTube videos. … I featured my mom, who is a middle-aged Latina woman who is the population that we were targeting, and created a YouTube video of her collecting all the samples and going through the motions of everything so that the women really felt empowered. ‘If this lady can do it, I can do it!’” Listen to the full podcast.