March 25, 2024

News and Announcements

the graduating class of 1906

March 22, 2024, marked a mouthful for San Francisco State University: its quasquicentennial. That’s a 125th birthday, and SF State — founded by the California legislature on this date in 1899 — will be celebrating its 125th for the rest of the year. We’re kicking things off here with an overview of the school’s history. More anniversary articles will follow in the months to come, as will a video retrospective, archival photos and much more. 

SF State’s origins actually go back much further than 1899. In 1862, a committee of San Francisco residents sent a petition to the legislature demanding a state-sponsored “normal school” — a school for the training and preparation of teachers. Funding for such a school was approved, establishing the first state-supported institution of higher learning in California. It didn’t stay in San Francisco long, though. 

“During its Barbary Coast heyday during the 1870s, families relocated across the Bay and down the Peninsula and out of San Francisco when it became too lawless,” said University Archivist Meredith Eliassen. “The Normal School was moved south to the more family-friendly San Jose in 1871.” 

Elements of the original teacher training programs lived on in San Francisco, however, and on March 22, 1899, an act of the legislature authorized the creation of a new San Francisco Normal School. 

The school’s first location was a rented two-story building atop Nob Hill. Its Board of Trustees appointed Canadian-born educator Frederic Lister Burk founding president, and he chose Experientia docet, “experience teaches,” as the school motto. The first graduating class — the class of 1901 — consisted of three dozen students, all women. (The first male student was admitted in 1904.) After the earthquake and fire of April 1906 destroyed the SF State building and all its records, the campus relocated to the Hayes Valley neighborhood. Classes resumed in June, making SF State the first public school in the city to reopen.   

The school quickly earned a reputation for its high-caliber graduates, innovative teaching methods and emphasis on practical experience. In the 1920s, it began offering the bachelor of arts degree, and in 1935 it became San Francisco State College. Its first master’s degree — in education — was offered in 1949 as the school celebrated its 50th anniversary.  

The times (and the names) they are a-changin’ 
Enrollment quadrupled in the five years following World War II when the GI Bill enabled many veterans to pay for college. To accommodate growing demand, the College moved in 1954 to its present campus near Lake Merced. In 1961, the College joined what would become the 23-campus California State University system, and in 1972 it was renamed California State University, San Francisco. That name proved as unpopular as it was ungainly, and in 1974 the school was rechristened yet again. The new name — San Francisco State University — reflected the dramatically expanded curriculum that grew from. 

Today SF State has a diverse student body of more than 23,000. The University offers numerous degrees and certifications: bachelor’s degrees in 76 academic areas, master’s degrees in 63 academic areas, a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership, a Ph.D. in Education with a pioneering concentration in Special Education, a clinical Doctorate of Physical Therapy (D.P.T.) jointly with University of California, San Francisco, 13 credential programs and 54 certificate programs. 

While still renowned as a teaching university, the SF State of 2024 is also associated with outstanding instruction in the arts, sciences, ethnic studies, business, health, humanities and many other disciplines. 

“From its beginnings all those years ago, SF State has been focused on meeting the needs of the Bay Area and California,” President Lynn Mahoney said. “Those needs may have changed over the years, but the commitment to outstanding education, workforce development and equity remain the same.” 

Vincent Matthews

Vincent Matthews is a quote collector. Talk to the three-time SF State alumnus for any length of time about his nearly 40-year career in education, and he’s bound to share an inspirational quote about teaching, young people or remaining optimistic in the face of challenges. But Matthews doesn’t just hang these sayings on a wall or dispense them to people having a bad day. He lives by them. 

Take his first teaching job as an example. The San Francisco native taught at Washington Carver Elementary School, an all-Black school in the Hunters Point neighborhood. He worked under Louise C. Jones, a mentor. She instilled in him three truths: “All kids can learn; all kids want to learn; and the adults in the system have the responsibility for making that happen.” 

He built his entire career around those words, first as a teacher, then as a principal and later as a superintendent for school districts across the state. And now as a professor training future school leaders, those words still undergird his teaching. 

Matthews joined SF State’s Graduate College of Education lecturer faculty several years ago while he was still superintendent of San Francisco Unified School District, a role he retired from in 2022 after five years. He’s now an assistant professor in the Equity, Leadership Studies, and Instructional Technologies Department preparing current educators for roles in school administration. He teaches a yearlong degree program tailored to experienced teachers and other school professionals where they’ll earn their master’s degree in administration and an administrative credential.

“I feel like I was blessed because I fell into a career that was just a match. It was my passion. In that same way, I want to continue to give back to people who want to do the same thing,” he said. “So, these are [education professionals] who are very comfortable in the classroom, but they’re saying, ‘I want to do more.’” 

Having held numerous roles in public education, Matthews is an ideal instructor. He understands the role of a principal. They are the instructional leaders and architects of a school’s culture — which must include a culture of achievement and a recognition of all cultures, he adds. 

Matthews has inside knowledge about one of the largest school districts in the Bay Area, San Francisco, but was also superintendent for San Jose and Oakland school districts. He knows the students those districts serve. That kind of knowledge is invaluable to future school and district leaders, says Professor of Educational Administration and Leadership and coordinator of the program Irina Okhremtchouk, who recruited Matthews to teach at SF State. 

“Whenever [Matthews] presented an anecdote, whenever he shared advice about a challenge or a bright spot, [students] were able to take that advice and implement it immediately to see results. That’s huge,” she said. “For somebody who directs the program, like myself, I want to hear that professors, who are charged with instructing the students, actually make a difference in the way that not only resonates with students, but that students find useful and applicable to their practice.” 

With such a distinguished career, Matthews could have taught at any number of universities — including ones closer to his Hercules home. But that was out of the question for Matthews. He owes his entire teaching career to SF State, the place where he earned his bachelor’s, master’s, teaching credential and doctorate degree. It’s the place that rebuilt him, he says. 

After high school Matthews attended the University of California, Davis, but that was not a good fit. He was kicked out and returned home to San Francisco feeling like a broken person, he says. At the urging of his mother, he picked himself up off the couch and started taking classes at City College of San Francisco before transferring to SF State. 

“It’s just the place that really made me,” said Matthews, a 2023 SF State Alumni Hall of Fame inductee. “There are banners all around SF State saying, ‘It’s the place where passion meets purpose,’ and that’s exactly what happened. … San Francisco State gave me my pride, my purpose, basically believed in me and said, ‘Vince, you can do it.’” 

Coming back to teach at SF State is Matthews’ way of give back to both the institution and the profession that gave him everything. “I saw this quote in a classroom and it said, ‘The whole world is changed by changing your corner of the world,’” he said. “What I’m trying to do every day is focus on these 45 students, making sure they’re right to change this corner of the world.” 

Learn more about SF State’s Graduate College of Education

Photo by Stuart Locklear 

BD Wong

Award-winning actor and alumnus BD Wong recently returned to the stage at SF State not to perform, but to share insights gleaned from his decades-long career in film, theatre and television. A Tony Award winner for his groundbreaking role in “M. Butterfly” on Broadway, Wong is also known for appearances in films like “Mulan” and the “Jurassic Park” and “Father of the Bride” series. 

While on campus at SF State’s Little Theatre Tuesday, March 12, Wong answered questions from students and faculty as part of two forums, one hosted by Professor of Theatre and Dance Yutian Wong and the other by Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Amy Sueyoshi and Asian American Studies Professor Russell Jeung. Wong talked about his craft, shared advice for students hoping to launch careers in the arts and discussed the lessons he’s learned navigating the entertainment industry as a queer person of color. 

Wong began acting in high school. The San Francisco native credited his high school drama teacher for instilling a sense of confidence in his ability to perform. Often cast as a lead in school productions, he never thought about his race. Then he came to SF State … where, unfortunately, he felt invisible. It was the late 1970s, and he was the only Asian American student in the theatre department. Faculty didn’t know how to serve him, he told students. 

“They were certainly not programming anything that I could do that would have helped me assume my potential,” he said. “Nor were they transcending race and giving me roles that were not related to who I was as a person.” 

Since then, the University has made a concerted effort when it comes to fostering a diverse, equitable and inclusive community. But Wong’s experience at the time caused him to drop out of college in 1980 and pursue theatre in New York City. Eight years later he made a huge splash in “M. Butterfly,” launching a career that would later include recurring roles in several TV series, including “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” “Oz” and “Awkwafina is Nora from Queens.” He accepted an honorary doctoral degree from SF State at the University’s 2022 Commencement, and he recently returned to San Francisco again to star in the play “Big Data” at the American Conservatory Theatre. 

Though things have improved for Asian American actors since he began his career, Wong says he still wishes there were better parts and more representation. He’s had to learn to speak up and take action to open doors. 

“Nothing good can happen from being passive, so I taught myself and started to enjoy fostering the conversation. It began with myself and then it bled into having this conversation with other Asian American actors who I could relate to and who could relate to me and that led to a form of activism,” he said. “It was small battles being won and them getting larger and larger. And today we have a presence that we simply didn’t have before. It’s partly because of this whole journey of micro-successes and discussions.” 

Wong advises students starting out in the industry to be open to any role, whether it’s as an extra, a production assistant or a stand-in. It’s important to get exposure and to learn, he says. 

“I did extra work, and it was really helpful to me just to be an observer on a set to watch the professional principal actors work with a camera,” he said. “I was in crowd scenes and stuff like that. That’s not fun, but I found it very valuable. I was fascinated by the process.” 

Theatre Arts student Connor Diaz was in the audience Tuesday and found the event invaluable. “It was just really incredible to see someone in the industry explore all aspects of the craft,” Diaz said. “As a performer, I really want to invest myself in other people’s work. From someone with so much experience it was truly a gift to have that.” 

Photo by Corinne Allen 

Christopher Lujan giving a speech

Leaders with United Way Bay Area (UWBA) were joined on March 19 by SF State officials, faculty and students for the opening of a new SparkPoint program on the college campus. 

SparkPoint is a cornerstone in UWBA’s poverty-fighting efforts where clients create pathways to long-term financial prosperity by working with free, expert financial coaches to set goals, create financial plans and learn new strategies for long-term financial success.  

SF State students and members of the community will access financial coaching and wrap-around services through the new SparkPoint program, which marks the 24th SparkPoint program throughout the region powered by United Way Bay Area, and the first at a four-year institution of higher learning. Expert financial coaches work with students to set goals, create long-term financial plans and teach new strategies for long-term financial success. SparkPoint centers also provide a variety of free resources such as one-on-one career coaching, tax preparation and credit counseling. 

“United Way Bay Area is thrilled to open this SparkPoint program at SF State, and we’re excited to see the impact these services and resources will have for the students and families who need them the most,” said Nicole Harden, vice president of economic success for United Way Bay Area. “These scholars are doing the work to create pathways to prosperity for themselves and their families, and we are happy to be here cheering them on and providing the wrap-around services needed to support them through our SparkPoint program.” 

In addition to financial coaching and resources, students and families can also receive resources to meet basic needs like food, housing and utilities. SparkPoint services are provided at no cost. Institutions of higher learning often serve as the venue where people begin their path out of poverty and start the journey toward financial security and prosperity. 

“We take pride in helping our students achieve upward social mobility and this new SparkPoint program will ensure more students can attain that,” SF State Associate Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students Miguel Hernández said. “That’s because when students have their basic needs met, they are more likely to perform well academically and ultimately graduate.” 

According to research, students who cannot consistently meet their basic needs — like food and housing — often cope with these challenges by dropping classes, working more hours and even skipping semesters, all of which makes them less likely to complete their degrees or skills training. 1 in 4 students at community colleges regularly can’t afford three meals per day, and many are the first in their families to enroll in school.  

According to quantitative research released by United Way Bay Area, the SparkPoint program measurably improves student persistence and advancement compared to students not receiving support through the program. Students who participated in SparkPoint were 127% more likely to remain enrolled in college.  

The new SparkPoint program at SF State is located at Centennial Village, 750 Font Blvd., Suite 5000. 

Students and families can visit the SparkPoint program during normal operating hours, or email Food+Shelter+Success for further information and assistance. 

Photo by Corinne Allen 

SF State’s Climate HQ calls all student, faculty and alumni to submit environmental and climate justice-themed film and video projects for the second annual Earth Week FilmFest. The festival will take place Thursday, April 25, 4 – 7 p.m., in Knuth Hall, Creative Arts building. This event will be open to the public. 

The submission deadline is Monday, April 8. Submissions can be finished or works in progress; however, unfinished work must be completed by Sunday, April 14. Work can be recent or from previous semesters. Please make submissions via Qualtrics 

The Earth Week FilmFest will also screen the documentary “Water Warriors” and a teasure for the upcoming NorCal Public Media series “Climate Connections.” “Water Warriors” director and producer Michael Premo will be in attendance along with representatives from NorCal Public Media. Students will have the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion and audience Q&A with these professionals in the field. 

At Commencement this year, SF State faculty marshal have a new opportunity! In addition to helping graduates walking onto the field and to their seats, faculty marshals will now also be able to help greet graduates and conduct crowd control in the Grad Zone. All faculty marshals will help with the diploma procession.  

Commencement takes place at Friday, May 24, at Oracle Park.Please sign up as a faculty marshal.  

As in years past, all faculty marshals are asked to attend at least one informational training via Zoom for their assignment. Trainings will be held Monday, May 20, 1:30 – 2:30 p.m., and Tuesday, May 21, 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. 

For questions, please email Ken Maeshiro

Experience the magic of SF State’s 123rd Commencement ceremony on Friday, May 24, at Oracle Park, home of the San Francisco Giants. Please consider signing up as an ambassador — an integral role in the success of this monumental day. Ambassador assignments will be from 1:30 to 9:30 p.m.   

As in years past, all ambassadors are asked to:  

  • Receive approval from their supervisor.  
  • Attend at least one informational training via Zoom for their assignment. The training dates are Monday, May 20, 1:30 – 2:30 p.m., and Monday, May 21, 10:30 – 11:30 a.m.  

Many assignments involve large amounts of walking and standing. Please request any accommodations on the signup form under “Questions or requests.” Your support will help make this a special event for our graduating students, their friends and family members.  

For questions, please email Dania Russell.  

The SF State Academic Senate met on Tuesday, March 19, at Seven Hills and via Zoom.  

The senate: 

  • Passed by general consent the following distance education authorization for: 

    • B.A., Asian American Studies 
    • B.A., Race and Resistance Studies 
    • B.A., Latina/Latino Studies 
    • B.A., American Indian Studies 
    • Passed revision to S20-145 Department Chairs and Equivalent Unit Directors Policy. 
  • Passed the following changes: 
    • Minor, Health Education (name change)  
    • Minor, Empowerment for Self Defense (revised)  
    • B.S., Interior Design and Architecture (library info added)  
    • Minor, Special Education (reduce number of units, technically substantive)  
    • Minor, Finance (rescind the suspension that never actually took place and update courses)  
    • Minor, Global World Music and Dance (name change, resituate program and update courses) 
    • B.A., Africana Studies, Distance Education Authorization 
    • Minor, Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Studies (name change) 
    • Minor, Human Sexuality Studies (name change) 
    • Minor, Feminist Health Justice (name change) 
  • Heard in first reading the following items: 
    • Revision to S21-196 Curriculum and Course Standards Policy 
    • Graduate Certificate, Decision Sciences (new) 
  • Postponed the following items for next meeting: 
    • Recommendation from the Campus Curriculum Committee: B.A., Ethnic Studies (move from College of Professional and Global Education to state support and other issues) 
    • Minor, Russian (name change and other requirement) 

The Senate heard a presentation from Reggie Parson, associate vice president and chief of police; Frederick Smith, associate vice president for Equity & Community Inclusion; Lori Makin-Byrd, Equity Programs & Compliance; and Lawrence Birello, director of Student Conduct: “Introducing the Reporting Portals and Conflict Diffusion Workgroup.” Slides are available. 

Associated Students’ Project Rebound presents the spring 2024 Bay Area System Impacted Consortium (BASIC) Conference. BASIC meets once a semester, and this biannual convening will be held Thursday, April 4, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., in Rosa Parks Rooms A – C, Cesar Chavez Student Center. This is an opportunity for campus programs and community allies convene to discuss developments for the inclusion of formerly incarcerated students. 

Please join for coffee, tea, lunch and panels. The conference covers transitional-age-youth populations, post-grad networking for formerly incarcerated students and the barriers of human resources and hiring. 

Please view the full agenda and register via Humantix.  

The Science Technology Society Hub and Health Equity Institute are excited to welcome back former SF State faculty member Christoph Hanssmann for a launch and discussion of his new book, “Care without Pathology.” The event takes place Friday, April 5, 3 – 4 p.m., in HSS 361 and via Zoom

The book is based on interviews with trans health activists, advocates and care providers in New York City and Buenos Aires. It focuses on the activism and advocacy that led to changes in the public provision of gender-affirming care at a state level in New York and at a national level in Argentina. It asserts that social movements have been a crucial force in struggles to define gender-affirming care for trans people as a public good. In so doing, activists have developed new ideas about aspects such as depathologization, redefined notions of health and risk and demonstrated the hypocrisies of austerity politics. 

Hansmann is an assistant professor of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at University of California, Davis. 

Join the Institute for Civic and Community Engagement (ICCE) for a free workshop on Monday, April 8, at 1 p.m. via Zoom. Intern Jazlyn Wong will will teach how to navigate Canva as a multimedia platform, professional tool and transferable skill in a casual, welcoming and friendly environment.  

Please RSVP via Zoom. For questions, please email Jazlyn Wong

Curious about artificial intelligence (AI) and what it might mean for students? Generative AI has become a topic of interest in the popular media, business and at colleges across the country. ChatGPT and other emerging AI tools are quickly evolving and are soon to become vital in professional and personal environments.  

Through Academic Technology, learn about types of AI, ethics, AI tools, appropriate usage and the “stoplight” method. A virtual workshop will be held Tuesday, April 9, 2 – 3 p.m. An in-person workshop takes place Thursday, April 25, 2 – 3 p.m., in Library 121. 

Visit the Academic Technology website for more information and to register

Expand your generative artificial intelligence (AI) toolkit. Join Academic Technology on Thursday, April 11, 2:30 – 4 p.m., in Library 280 for “Beyond Chatbots: GenAI Images, Voice, Meetings.”  

This hands-on workshop harnesses the power of GenAI for image creation, video transcription and virtual meeting support. It is recommended for both beginners and advanced users and offers an opportunity to elevate GenAI skills in a supportive environment. 

Please register via Microsoft Office Forms

The School of Theatre and Dance presents “Masquerade de Semblance,” a performance showcasing physical characterization through the art of wearing masks, as part of its spring season. “Masquerade de Semblance” will be presented Thursday, April 25 – Saturday, April 27, at 2 p.m. in The Lab (Creative Arts 104). 

“Masquerade de Semblance”: Everything becomes exposed when the mask is on. This rare and exciting theatre work, under the direction of Professor of Theatre Arts Yukihiro Goto, showcases this cast’s dedication to in-depth physical acting training with character masks. All of the work done in the show is supported by the development of other acting skill sets such as movement-based training and textual work with playwrights William Shakespeare and Moliére.  

Please visit the School of Theatre and Dance website for tickets

SF State Spotlight

Hilary Natasha Mejia Cruz/Hache, graduate assistant in the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, and Renée E. Stephens, admissons and outreach coordinator for the Educational Opportunity and Pathways Programs (EOPP), attended and presented at the San Mateo Community College District’s inaugural Queer Students of Color Conference. It was held March 8 at Skyline College in San Bruno. 

Hache is a poet who transferred to SF State after graduating from Skyline College. They presented their creative writing workshop “Memory access after migration,” empowering attendees to write their past selves into what they want to prepare for the future selves. 

Stephens attended SF State as a transfer student and is an alum of EOPP. A mixed-race, Xican@ queer herstorian since graduate school at University of New Mexico, Stephens acted as a representative for SF State and its EOPP and College of Ethnic Studies at the conference.  

The goal of the conference was to empower, enrich and equip people with new tools to foster community; advocate for queer Black Indigenous and other People of Color (BIPOC) liberation; deepen understanding of queer BIPOC experiences; and obtain funding for a pride center at all three colleges in the San Mateo Community College District. 

Music Professor Hafez Modirzadeh recently served as a the Davenport Resident for New American Music at State University of New York, New Paltz. His residency concluded March 5 with a concert with New Paltz music faculty and students, featuring the world premiere of “Beyond Song,” a work in Afro/Asian tuning sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts. 

“When you’re listening to this music, it should bring about more than tolerance for the different tones that are coexisting. Begin to get an appreciation, kindness and compassion from empathy,” Modirzadeh said in an article in The Oracle student newspaper.  

Vice President for University Advancement Jeff Jackanicz participated in a forum on Feb. 9 presented by the San Francisco Business Times on the demand for skilled labor in the Bay Area’s powerhouse industries.  

“It is clear that no matter which sector, the more diverse your workforce, the greater your competitive advantage and the better your outcomes,” Jackanicz said. “We are working hard at San Francisco State to eliminate the equity gaps and the equity outcomes in terms of what percentage of our students complete their degrees and how long it takes them to partner.”

Journalism Professor Venise Wagner is quoted in a Feb. 22 article on Block Club Chicago about the history of Black steelworkers at mills on the city’s South Side.  

Wagner spent her early life in the area, where five generations of her family faced workplace and housing discrimination.  

“The double whammy of housing and workplace discrimination really kept a lot of African Americans from prospering,” said Wagner, whose forthcoming memoir “Anatomy of My Past” explores her family story.