May 30, 2023

News and Announcements 

Two graduates cheerfully smiling in cap and gown

SF State celebrated the Class of 2023 at its annual Commencement ceremony Friday, May 26, at Oracle Park. More than 4,000 graduates and 31,000 people attended the event, which featured technology business leader Jayshree Ullal as keynote speaker. Ullal talked about the challenges she faced coming to the U.S. from her native India to attend San Francisco State in 1977. 

“While I was pursuing electrical engineering, I was only one or two of 100 female students in a class of 100,” said Ullal (B.S., ’81), who studied electrical engineering at SF State and went on to become president and CEO of cloud networking company Arista Networks. “This made cutting class difficult, as we were conspicuous by our absence!” 

Despite being a trailblazer in a then mostly male field — and a “very shy, quiet introvert” to boot — Ullal said her Engineering professors and fellow students were supportive.   

“This great San Francisco State institution shaped me and guided my future,” she said. “And it can be your rock just like it’s my foundational rock.” 

Two honorary California State University degrees were also conferred at Commencement: legendary Rolling Stone writer and editor, author, DJ and TV host Ben Fong-Torres (B.A., ’66) was honored with a Doctor of Fine Arts, while activist, filmmaker, author and psychotherapist Satsuki Ina received a Doctor of Humane Letters.  

“Actually I didn’t attend my Commencement. Hey, it was the Sixties. We forgot, man,” Fong-Torres joked to the crowd. “But I have never forgotten this university’s impact on me. … I got that [Rolling Stone] gig, I think, because of the freedom that we had to experiment with journalism here at SF State, and the lessons learned from that freedom.” 

During Ina’s speech, she encouraged the Class of 2023 to make the world a better place through empathy and action. 

“I urge you to bring with you something that has always been inside of you, even before college, and that is your compassion,” she said. “We need all that you bring, and more than ever in this world of conflict, violence, injustice and suffering, we need your compassion. We need you to care and love family and friends, of course, but also the stranger, the other, the foreigner. Reach out beyond your comfort zone, welcome the outsider. It is compassion that can mend the fractures, heal the wounds and bring us together.” 

Other speakers included SF State President Lynn Mahoney, Associated Students President Karina Zamora and Associated Students Chief of Staff Iese Esera. Two student hood recipients, among 12 graduates honored for their academic and personal achievements, also shared their stories. 

“I began my journey in higher education as a homeless first-generation college student with a baby on my hip and another in my belly. I did not have support, money, guidance or a place to call my own. But what I did have was a dream,” said undergraduate speaker Nicole Bañuelos. “I had a dream that I would earn my degree in Biology and go on to study medicine and save human lives. This dream carried me through my most trying times. I learned how to study through morning sickness and nausea, how to hold a textbook in one hand and a baby in another, how to hold my head up high when I felt like the world was looking down on me. But most of all I learned how to never give up in the face of adversity and that after every dark night there is a brighter day.” 

Graduate student speaker Hasti Jafari, who was born in Iran, reflected on the Iranian women’s movement and the important lessons the Class of 2023 can learn from the brave activists there. 

“As someone honored to have called both countries home, I encourage you to see their fight as your fight, as the basic rights of women, people of color and the LGBTQ+ and disabled communities are under threat in this country as well,” Jafari said. “And in this deeply interconnected world, none of us are free until all of us are free.” 

Learn more information about SF State’s 2023 Commencement. 

Grace Yoo

Following a formal search, Grace Yoo has been selected to serve as the next dean of SF State’s College of Ethnic Studies effective July 1, 2023. She currently serves as a professor of Asian American Studies. 

Yoo has worked in higher education for over 30 years, 27 of which have been at SF State. She began as an Asian American Studies lecturer faculty member in 1996 and 18 years later became chair of the same department, serving in that role until 2018. 

“Dr. Yoo is an excellent community organizer in addition to being an award-winning sociologist who is also exceptional at securing grant funding,” said Amy Sueyoshi, SF State’s provost and vice president for academic affairs. “The skills and passion that she has are much needed not only in the classroom and in higher education but also here at SF State. We are so grateful to Dr. Yoo for continuing to make our University a place of learning and love.” 

Yoo also held a number of positions at SF State, such as the inaugural director for both the Race, Empowerment and Justice Project in the College of Ethnic Studies and the First-Year Experience Initiative. In the latter role, she facilitated the implementation of First-Year Seminar, led faculty development efforts on the First-Year Experience, created the First-Year Experience Peer Mentorship program and produced several University reports examining first-year retention during COVID-19.  

Yoo has also served as a project director for a number of extramural grants. Most notably, the U.S. Department of Education awarded her SF State’s first Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions (AANAPISI) grant. This grant and subsequent ones have totaled over $5 million for culturally responsive outreach, student support and faculty development to decrease equity gaps and increase college access, retention and graduation rates. 

“The College of Ethnic Studies — which is the ‘beating heart’ of SF State — has been my home and purpose for nearly 27 years,” Yoo said. “I am so excited to support our students, staff, faculty and communities with the high-impact practices of ethnic studies teaching, service, research, scholarship and creative activities. Centering care, equity and social justice in our work is my joy and commitment.” 

Yoo earned her bachelor’s degree in Social Sciences from University of California, Irvine, her master’s degree in Public Health from Loma Linda University and her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of California, San Francisco. Her research expertise is in social support and health among immigrants, women of color and Asian Americans. Yoo’s book “Caring Across Generations: The Linked Lives of Korean American Families,” co-authored with Barbara Kim, won the Best Book Award from the American Sociological Association Asian/Asian American section. 

Yoo replaces Amy Sueyoshi, who became SF State’s provost and vice president for academic affairs in July 2022. Catrióna Rueda Esquibel, associate dean of the College of Ethnic Studies, has served as interim dean. 

Malaika Harris

The Peace Corps has recognized SF State as No. 20 on its list of all-time top volunteer-producing colleges and universities. The ranking is based on an annual list issued by the Peace Corps between 2003 and 2023. 

The Peace Corps is an international service network of volunteers, community members, host country partners and staff who are driven by the agency’s mission of world peace and friendship. In March of 2020, it suspended global operations and evacuated nearly 7,000 volunteers from more than 60 countries at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The evacuation included 20 San Francisco State alumni. Currently, more than 1,400 volunteers — six of them SF State alumni — have returned to a total of 53 countries around the world. 

“Demand for Peace Corps volunteers is high given setbacks in development progress following the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Peace Corps Director Carol Spahn. “Peace Corps service is the beginning of a lifetime of global connection and purpose for those bold enough to accept the invitation.” 

One of those bold volunteers was SF State alum Malaika Harris. She says the University’s Africana Studies Department played a significant role in her decision to serve in the Peace Corps by fostering her passion for African culture and history. 

“From SF State, I bring a deep appreciation for cultural diversity and a commitment to social justice. Currently, I’m excited to be working on a project with local community members in Northern Uganda that aims to provide health education to pregnant women, young mothers and their communities to decrease child mortality,” said Harris. 

The U.S. Department of Education awarded $5.7 million to the Department of Counseling’s Equity and Justice-Focused School-Based Mental Health training project for a five-year program to address the shortage of school-based mental health professionals. Partnering with Oakland and San Francisco Unified school districts (OUSD and SFUSD, respectively), the Department of Counseling will train master’s students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds to work with K – 12 students in high-need schools. The project will be led by Counseling Associate Professors Molly Strear (lead researcher) and Tiffany O’Shaughnessy and Professor Julie Chronister. 

  Students in the department with a specialization or emphasis in School Counseling, Clinical Mental Health Counseling, and Marriage, Family and Child Counseling are eligible for a $10,000 stipend each year they complete fieldwork in OUSD or SFUSD schools and commit to one year of full-time employment in high-need K – 12 schools after graduation.  

  “As the only publicly funded school counselor training program in the San Francisco region of the Bay Area, and one of only three CACREP (Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs)-accredited programs in California, SF State has been integral in building capacity to meet the mental health needs of Bay Area youth for over 30 years,” said Strear. “Our students reflect the cultural and linguistic diversity of the [region], and many choose to return to work in their Bay Area communities after graduation. The high cost of living coupled with rising tuition rates and lack of compensation for pre-graduate fieldwork makes it very challenging to pursue a graduate degree.” 

Did you know your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) offers you eight free visits with a local therapist, as well as a bunch of other ways to support you personally? Kickstart your mental wellness by taking advantage of this free benefit.  

Each person in your family who lives with you is also eligible. Issues brewing at home? Teen angst? Parenting support? Addiction concerns? Depression, anxiety? Let your EAP benefit help you meet with a professional licensed provider. Options available by phone, virtual and in-person. Call (800) 367-7474 or access services on the EAP website (password: sfsu). 

Additionally, EAP offers more for you and your family such as unlimited work/life resources, referrals for child care/elder care, financial consulting such as personal budgeting and retirement investment guidance, mortgage, loan and debt management advice, legal consulting related to consumer and family law, traffic citations, and estate planning. Use these free services to get what you need this summer.  

Questions? Contact our Human Resources Benefits team

This Friday, June 2, from 9 to 10:30 a.m., the Staff Council will open its virtual plenary meeting to all non-councilor staff members. It will be our last for the semester as we end our first official year as a shared governance body on campus. If you’e interested in seeing what the proceedings are like, you’re welcome to join in. 

Please RSVP using this Qualtrics form no later than midnight Thursday, June 1, and you should expect the Zoom link the following morning of the final meeting of the semester! 

Visit the Staff Council website for more information. 

Still contemplating about jump-starting your fitness lifestyle? Why not jump into it during the summer with the Fit Plus program? Starting Monday, June 5, Fit Plus will host in-person and online fitness classes. Visit the Fit Plus web page for more details.  

SF State Spotlight

On May 11, Africana Studies Professor Dorothy Tsuruta, co-chair of the Education Committee of the Coalition of 100 Black Women, participated in Black Women’s Advocacy Day at San Francisco City Hall along with three other Black women’s organizations. On that day San Francisco supervisors met with Black women in their respective district: Tsuruta met with Supervisor Connie Chan on their district. Tsuruta also was included in presentations from Supervisor Aaron Peskin and Supervisor Myrna Melgar. 

On May 12, Tsuruta, as president of the Golden Gate section to the Mary McLeod Bethune-founded National Council of Negro Women, represented the organization along with other members, at the 11th annual Day of Recognition of Mothers who lost their children to gun violence. San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins spoke as a mother herself who has lost a child to violence. Other speakers included The Rev. Amos, Brown (who kindly recognized Tsuruta during his talk), Police Chief Bill Scott and representing Nancy Pelosi was her daughter Christina. Pelosi and Mayor London Breed for the first time had to miss the event, held annually at Third Baptist Church in San Francisco. 

Bringing Theory to Practice dedicated a recent issue of its biweekly e-newsletter to SF State‘s Metro College Success Program. The program drives change and inspires others, providing students with a transformative learning experience that encourages them to advocate for a more equitable society. Through an inclusive and supportive environment, Metro empowers students to overcome barriers to their education and become engaged in addressing policies that negatively affect their families and communities. The program’s success is evident in the impressive achievements of its students, highlighting the importance of a comprehensive approach to eliminating the equity gap in college completion. 

The Bringing Theory to Practice e-newsletter is distributed to over 4,000 higher education staff, faculty and change leaders. Each edition features a specific initiative, campus or association representing the potential for positive changes in higher education. The newsletter is a powerful platform for initiatives like Metro to advance integrated, holistic and engaged education in higher education.

A May 16 story in EdTech Magazine takes a look inside Burk Hall 170, the “HyFlex” classroom pioneered by Brian Beatty, associate professor of Instructional Technologies.  

“In 2005, more than a decade before the COVID-19 pandemic ushered in the modern era of online and hybrid learning in higher education, this classroom on the campus of San Francisco State University was outfitted for the budding field of online learning,” the story stated. “... Today, Burk 170 is an intentionally designed, fully functional HyFlex and active learning space, the kind of space that has become more common at universities across the country as they turn more frequently to HyFlex.” 

Public Health Lecturer Jessica Wolin presented on May 31 at the 2023 CSU Academic Resources Conference for staff of all CSU campuses. Wolin and colleagues from Cal Poly Humboldt and CSU Monterey Bay will lead the workshop, “Education with Dignity: Supporting Students’ Basic Needs on CSU campuses.” They will discuss how all faculty and staff have a role to play in fostering a community of care on CSU campuses. 

National Geographic quoted Associate Professor of Biology Robyn Crook in a May 24 story exploring if octopuses are able to dream in their sleep. She says it would require a solid evidence base of brain activity when asleep. 

“There's so much to know about the neurological basis of sleep in invertebrates, before anyone could reasonably make a supposition about dreaming,” she adds.  

Concerned about ticks and Lyme Disease? Andrea Swei, associate professor of Biology, appears on the “Ologies” podcast to discuss removing ticks and the spread of Lyme Disease.  

Swei explains her area of research expertise in zoonotic diseases. 

“That means that they’re pathogens that are naturally maintained in wildlife and wild situations and can also cross over to humans and cause disease in humans,” Swei told “Ologies” host, SF State alumna Alie Ward. “Zoonotic diseases are a huge part of the burden of the infectious diseases that we see in the world. Many of the diseases that we’re facing that seem to be new or that seem to be emerging actually come from wildlife reservoirs.” 

Liberal Studies Lecturer Tyler Cohen, alumna Rina Ayuyang, Janelle Hessig and Thien Pham launched “Cartoonists@836M,” a four-month residency at 836M in San Francisco on May 25. 

During their residency, the four artists will create comic works on the history of San Francisco’s neighborhoods, past, present and future. 

As union efforts garner widespread media coverage, Labor and Employment Studies Professor and Director John Logan continues to be cited frequently.  

Recent clippings include: 

  • Associated Press, discussing the proposed UPS strike; 
  • Wired, discussing pushback from members of the editorial staff at CNET regarding stories generated from artificial intelligence; 
  • The New York Times, discussing considerations made in anti-union campaigns;  
  • Footwear News, discussing the grassroots unionization efforts at REI stores; and 
  • The Conversation, writing an opinion piece on the union at a Los Angeles adult establishment. 

Ready to try new recipes over the summer break? Professor Emerita of Creative Writing and alumna Frances Mayes’ new cookbook is “Pasta Veloce: Irresistibly Fast Recipes from Under the Tuscan Sun” (Abrams Books). Written with Susan Wyler, the cookbook “the most delicious Tuscan pasta recipes that can be made in the time it takes to boil water and for the pasta to cook.”