December 11, 2023

News and Announcements

a researcher preparing a microscope slide

Wikipedia is among the most visited websites in the world, with information on over 6 million topics. But much is missing, particularly in diversity. Through a partnership with the user-moderated online encyclopedia, students at SF State recently wrote original biographies for notable professionals in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) from underrepresented groups. 

Scientists from traditionally underrepresented groups comprise a small minority on Wikipedia. According to Wikipedia, only about 8% of the site’s 275,000 biographies of scientists are women, with similar gaps across race and ethnicity. 

With support from the Broadcom Foundation, the Wikipedia Education group selected the SF State Humanities class “History of Science from the Scientific Revolution,” taught by Associate Professor David M. Peña-Guzmán from the Department of Humanities and Comparative World Literature, as one of its partners this past summer. Wikipedia Education is a nonprofit organization that serves as the bridge between academia and Wikipedia throughout the U.S. and Canada. 

Nine of the biographies compiled by SF State students are live on Wikipedia. The students’ writing brings visibility to living professionals whose legacies have yet to be completed. They include chemical engineer Miguel Modestino, sustainable industrial engineer Enrique Lomnitz and Procter & Gamble executive and microbiologist Adrian Land. 

Maxwell Stephen Williams, a History graduate student who took the class, helped contribute the bio on Aaron Streets, a UC Berkeley bioengineering professor. Williams says the class taught him different ways to utilize Wikipedia in academic research. 

“It’s somewhat frowned upon to use Wikipedia as a source. But what’s not frowned upon, I found, was the sources that the people used for the Wikipedia article,” Williams said. “I don’t know if you should cite Wikipedia for a research paper, but it offers a general baseline. It gives you scholarly sources to further your own research.” 

Peña-Guzmán applied for the class to participate in the Wikipedia Student Program because it aligned with the themes he wanted to impart to students about the complex relationship between science and the histories of patriarchy, colonialism, classism and social bias. Writing the biographies of scientists of color who have made an impact in a scientific or technological domain was the class’ culminating project.    

“From the very beginning of the class, I built in questions about the politics of science,” he said. “Filling Wikipedia’s race gap through these biographies gave my students a very real, if minor, way of making a difference.” 

Peña-Guzmán will discuss his students’ projects on Wednesday, Dec. 13, at “Closing the gap for Black and Hispanic STEM professionals on Wikipedia,” a free virtual seminar presented by Wikipedia Education. 

The Wikipedia Student Program aims to make the broadly referenced site more inclusive and diverse. Since 2010, students from over 800 universities in the U.S. and Canada have worked on over 135,000 articles.  

“Evidence suggests that Wikipedia can influence trials in courts of law and significantly shape the world of science,” says Wikipedia Education Equity Outreach Coordinator Andrés Vera, citing two research papers led by a Massachusetts Institute of Technology faculty member. “Teaching with Wikipedia can help spread awareness about any topic to a wide audience.” 

Learn more about the Department of Humanities and Comparative World Literature

Photo by Paul Asper 

Patrick Makuakāne

Most cultural preservationists look to traditions, artifacts, history and language to keep a culture alive and intact. But that’s where alumnus Patrick Makuakāne (B.S., ’89), a kumu hula (master hula teacher) bucks tradition. His unique interpretation of the art form, which he calls hula mua (Hawaiian for “forward”), combines sacred elements like chanting, singing and traditional choreography with modern touches like techno music and themes drawn from contemporary culture. (His show “Mahu,” performed at several Bay Area venues this year, celebrated transgender artists.) 

“In Hawaiian there’s a word called kuleana, which means your responsibility, what you bring to the table — something that’s unique and special that you do that uplifts your world,” he told the MacArthur Foundation. “Our ancestors were highly innovative people. What I’m doing with innovating in hula is keeping that innovative spirit of our ancestors and my kuleana.” 

His groundbreaking work in hula at the San Francisco dance school he founded in 1985 earned him a 2023 MacArthur Fellowship in cultural preservation, a recognition that comes with a generous stipend of $800,000. He’s the first native Hawaiian to receive the honor, and he was among 19 other fellows from more traditional disciplines such as science, poetry, art, law, music and math. 

The 62-year-old has made it his mission to challenge what’s considered traditional. “When people think of tradition, they view it as fixed or immobile,” he said. “You can still preserve culture and innovate at the same time. They’re not mutually exclusive pursuits. In fact, if your culture does not innovate or evolve then it becomes immobile and a dead culture.” 

A raconteur, Makuakāne tells both old and new stories through hula. Traditional hula dances focus on the land and the Hawaiian people, but his choreography touches on edgier topics like imperialism and occupation. His 1996 production “The Natives Are Restless” explored the tragic history of Hawaii’s transformation from a sovereign monarchy to being annexed by the United States, which had overthrown the island nation’s first and only queen. 

“I did this piece called ‘Salva Mea,’ which was about the missionaries. I dressed as a priest with techno music in the background and I was running around the stage with an 8-foot cross baptizing people,” he said. “It was like an incoherent, messy and incautious mix of tradition and experimentation that really worked. … People were blown away.” 

That production set him on a path of experimentation ever since. 

Hula often shies away from tough topics, he says, but hula is the right art form to tell these stories so that history doesn’t repeat itself. He credits San Francisco with being the perfect place for his art, a city known as a playground for experimentation, subversion and boundary pushing. Makuakāne arrived in the city around the time of Act Up, a grassroots political group working to end the AIDS epidemic. The group was known for its theatrical acts of civil disobedience, actions he calls influential. 

He began studying hula at 13 years old. At 23, he moved to San Francisco for love — he followed a boyfriend who was a waiter at an exclusive French restaurant. After arriving in the city, Makuakāne taught hula to earn money. It was also his tie to Hawaii. He quickly attracted students and founded his award-winning hula school Nā Lei Hulu I Ka Wēkiu (which means “many-feathered wreaths at the summit”). Over the past four decades, he estimated he’s taught thousands of students. 

While he was building up his dance company, he studied kinesiology at San Francisco State University. After graduating he continued teaching hula and working as a physical trainer. As his school grew, he devoted himself full-time to hula, a decision that’s paid off. 

He was at Burning Man when he got the call from the MacArthur Foundation. He had no cell phone service and wasn’t sure why they called him. When he finally connected with the organization five days later, he was shocked. As the surprise wore off, guilt surfaced. So much of his work is entrenched in community and rests on the shoulders of his ancestors. “There are many people in my position who are deserving of an award such as this,” he said. “So, you do feel a bit guilty. Why me? Why not somebody else? How did I get noticed, you know?” 

But then again, he has been at this for more than three decades and he’s one of only few taking hula in new directions. And he’s grateful to be in the perfect place to do it. 

“[A friend once said,] “‘It must be nice being in San Francisco without someone looking over your shoulder, critiquing your every move.’ I was like, ‘Yeah it is,’” he said. “So that sense of liberation in your arts, feeling unshackled and doing whatever you want was a part of my process. I feel like I’m at a place really where I can do anything.” 

Photo courtesy of John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation 

SF State ITS staff receiving awards from the California Higher Education Collaborative

Information Technology Services (ITS) and Administration and Finance’s Quality Assurance (QA) department each recently won a Focus on Efficiency Award from the California Higher Education Collaborative.  

The winning project implemented by ITS’ Enterprise Resource Planning team is for Outbound EDI Transcripts. It enables universities to utilize PeopleSoft Campus Solutions to send transcripts electronically to other institutions through the SPEEDE server.  

ITS previously received this award in 2018 and 2021 for other technology initiatives. Nish Malik, associate vice president and chief information officer, would like to thank everyone in ITS and campus colleagues for their collaboration and partnership on various technology initiatives that benefit SF State and the CSU system and help provide recognition for ITS’ work. 

QA’s winning project, titled “Unifying Campus Stakeholders to Break Down Data Silos,” is about the development and application of a DocuSign/OnBase integration to operations in the offices of Student Financial Aid and Human Resources. During its ongoing campus engagement, QA had identified that data silos significantly undermined the efficiency gains. To address this pressing need, QA partnered with Information Technology Services’ Cloud Applications team to build a custom integration that bridged two critical campus tools — DocuSign and OnBase — while ensuring data security and retention procedures. In 2022 – 2023, over 41,000 documents were automatically moved from DocuSign to OnBase, resulting in a savings of 2,100 employee work hours.

This project continues to promote a culture of process improvement and cross-divisional collaboration bringing together key stakeholders to integrate existing technologies and optimizing university resources. 

Jesus Garcia, executive director of Quality Assurance & Audit Services, leads the QA department. 

The Environment, Health and Safety office shares holiday safety and health advice. 


  • Inspect electrical decorations for damage before use. Cracked or damaged sockets, loose or bare wires, and loose connections may cause a serious shock or start a fire. 
  • Avoid overloading outlets, and plug only one high-wattage appliance into each outlet at a time. Overloaded electrical outlets and faulty wires are a common cause of holiday fires. 
  • Never connect more than three strings of incandescent lights. Blown fuses can cause a fire. 
  • Dry trees are a serious fire hazard. Keep them watered daily. 
  • Candles start almost half of home decoration fires. Use battery-operated candles. 
  • Half of home fires involve decorations. Keep combustibles at least 3 feet from heat sources. 
  • Protect cords from damage. Cords pinched by furniture, forced into small spaces such as doors or windows, placed under rugs, located near heat sources, or attached by nails or staples can cause shocks or fire hazards. 
  • Check decorations for a safety certification label from an independent testing laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratories or Intertek. 
  • Stay in the kitchen when something is cooking. Unattended cooking equipment is the leading cause of home cooking fires. 
  • Turn off, unplug and extinguish all decorations when going to sleep or leaving the house. 


  • Get recommended vaccines against respiratory viruses. 
  • Get tested if you have signs or symptoms of a respiratory illness. 
  • Talk to your doctor about treatment with antiviral medication if you have a higher risk for serious illness. 
  • Practice healthy behaviors, including resting and staying home when sick. 

Join the campus ReUse listserv and recycle some of those office items taking up space or no longer needed so another department can benefit. It’s budget-friendly and sustainable! To join the listserv, email ReUse.  

To find all the interesting listservs across campus, check the SF State Distribution list website.  

Applications for the 2024 – 25 JusticeCorps program and the 2024 Access to Justice Summer Internship are now available to students interested in public service, law, social justice and/or community service. Fellowship applications are due by Monday, Feb. 12; student member applications are due by Sunday, Feb. 25. 

JusticeCorps is an AmeriCorps program that engages 55 students from Bay Area universities and eight graduate fellows in intensive volunteer service in the self-help centers of superior courts. Students will be placed San Mateo, Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara and San Francisco counties in 2024 – 2025. The self-help centers assist litigants who cannot afford an attorney to help resolve their legal matters themselves. 

Unlike other many other fellowships, internships and volunteer programs, JusticeCorps members work directly with people in need and do not do administrative work. All members will participate in an orientation and training on Saturday, Sept. 7, and Sunday, Sept. 8, 2024, and receive over 40 hours of training over the course of the year. 

For questions, please contact: Lexi Hernandez, Bay Area JusticeCorps specialist, or Dan Siskind, Bay Area JusticeCorps director. 

JusticeCorps is an academic-year program. For a summer internship, please email the Institute for Civic and Community Engagement

The Academic Senate and the Center for Equity and Excellence in Teaching and Learning invites the campus community to the 2024 University Retreat on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., in the J. Paul Leonard Library.  

The goal of this gathering is to bring the campus community closer through celebrations, showcases, discovery and brainstorming activities. Events include a panel discussion on student and faculty success, discovery games, campus affinity groups and a guided wine/coffee tasting. 

Please RSVP via Qualtrics.    

This is the final issue of CampusMemo for 2023. Weekly publication will resume Tuesday, Jan. 16.  

Lawrence A. Ianni, professor emeritus of English and former SF State administrator, passed away on Sept. 13 in San Bruno. He was 93. 

Ianni joined SF State in 1975, became associate provost of faculty affairs and then was named provost and vice president for faculty affairs in 1978. His wife, Mary Ellen Ianni, was a lecturer in SF State’s Elementary Education Department. 

In 1987, Ianni was named the chancellor of the University of Minnesota, Duluth. The campus’ Lawrence A. Ianni Hall, a seven-story residence hall, was dedicated in 2011.  

Ianni earned his bachelor’s degree from Clarion University of Pennsylvania and his master’s degree and Ph.D. from Case Western Reserve University. He was an expert on linguistics and American literature, including author Sinclair Lewis. 

SF State Spotlight

Special Education Professor Amber Friesen and Associate Professor Maryssa Mitsch presented with SFSU/UC Berkeley joint doctoral program students Karina Du, Prince Estanislao and Sara Ucar at the 39th annual International Division for Early Childhood Conference in Minneapolis. 

Combined, the group had seven presentations on: 

  • Trauma-Informed Practice  
  • Perceptions of Inclusion 
  • Qualifications for IDEA (2004) Part C Professionals 
  • Using Policy and Advocacy to Support Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Initiatives 
  • Using Interaction Technology Tools 
  • Reimagining Disability Representation in Literacy 
  • Anti-Bias Education 


KQED has streamed online Maya Angelou’s groundbreaking 1968 series “Blacks, Blues, Black!” — but these shows haven't aired on television for over 50 years. KQED-Channel 9 will broadcast all 10 episodes of the series on television every Tuesday at 7 p.m. from Dec. 19 to Feb. 20.  

In 2009 Alex Cherian, Library services specialist and Bay Area television archivist, rediscovered the series in a canister of archival film from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. “Blacks, Blues, Black!” celebrates the culture and history of Africa and the influence of Black culture on American society.

Associate Professor of Kinesiology Nicole Bolter presented at the Western Society for Physical Education of College Women annual conference, which took place Nov. 16 – 19 in Pacific Grove.  

Co-authors include two undergraduate researchers, Alexa Carreon and Kimberly DeBoer, who worked on data analysis and interpretation as part of their culminating experiences as Kinesiology majors. The presentation is titled, “Exploring Parents’/Guardians’ Reasons for Not Retuning to a Sports-Based Youth Development Program.” The authors reported on the qualitative reasons why parents and guardians might not re-enroll their child in the Junior Giants — a free non-competitive coed summer baseball and softball league that serves 30,000 players each year. This work is supported by a grant from the Giants Community Fund to evaluate the program and widely disseminate the findings. 

Bolter published a book on Nov. 14, titled “The Self-Regulated Eater: Trust Your Body, Trust Yourself, Transform Your Eating,” which focuses on helping people transition from the external control of a diet mindset to internal regulation. The book is a mother-daughter collaboration with Kay Bolter, a clinical psychologist with 30 years of expertise in the treatment of eating disorders. Kay Bolter is also an SF State alumna, having received her master’s degree in Special Education in 1975. The book is intended for practitioners and educators who work with individuals that struggle struggling with emotional eating and bingeing. 

Rachel Scherr, Nutrition and Dietetics lecturer, co-authored a publication titled “Methods for Assessing Health Outcomes Associated with Food Insecurity in the U.S. College Student Population: A Narrative Review” in the journal Advances in Nutrition. Her co-authors are Marcela Radtke, a Propel Postdoctoral Fellow in epidemiology and population health at the Stanford University School of Medicine, and Francene Steinberg of the UC Davis Department of Nutrition. 

Scientists are unclear if climate change will dissipate the famous fog that hovers over San Francisco. However, Geography and Environment Assistant Professor Sara Baguskas has studied the effects of fog on strawberries. To grow, the fruit relies partly on moisture provided by the marine layer. 

“Strawberry crops have greater water-use efficiency during fog events compared to non-foggy periods,” Baguskas told KQED’s “Bay Curious” on Nov. 30. “Even though the total amount of light that’s used by plants is lower like it’s dimmer, the photons are scattered, and so more of the leaves are engaged in photosynthesis in the plant.” 

As 2023 draws to a close, the Veteran Documentary Corps, in partnership with El Dorado Films, invites the campus community to view free screenings of two films that were chosen for their inspirational and uplifting subjects. The corps wishes all veterans and non-veterans a peaceful and happy holiday season. 

Through Friday, Dec. 15: “Tim Kochis: Purple Heart”: In his own words, Vietnam War veteran Tim Kochis shares his inspirational journey from being a combat-wounded Purple Heart recipient to a world-renowned wealth manager in San Francisco. 

Friday, Dec. 15 – Monday, Dec. 25: “Fighter Pilots of Vietnam”: Decades after the end of the Vietnam War, American and Vietnamese fighter pilots gathered to share their perspectives on their pivotal roles. Once enemies, now aging patriots of their countries, the pilots recall their experiences. This uplifting film shows how their fierce encounters led to mutual respect and, ultimately, friendship.  

To honor the veterans in your life, please support VDC’s mission of telling often-previously unknown veteran stories in documentary format by subscribing (free) to its YouTube channel