Exceptional graduating students honored
SF State will confer degrees to 8,738 graduates at its 112th Commencement on Saturday, May 25. Among them will be this year's hood recipients, who are top graduates chosen from each of SF State's six academic colleges and Graduate Studies to represent their fellow students. Read more below about these remarkable graduates.
Alfonso Solis credits his father, a Mexican immigrant and truck driver who had a passion for learning, with instilling in him the importance of education. Solis was originally attracted to SF State for its strong cinema program and planned on a career making crowd-pleasing blockbusters. But he soon saw the power of documentary film to reveal stories and issues that may not otherwise have been told. One of his films, through following a single teenage mother's struggle for reproductive justice, examines the ideological conflicts in the Latino community over sexuality among young people. Another, filmed in China, explores the community and health benefits of tai chi. Solis, a cinema major, also helped organize SF State's annual Human Rights Summit and delivered a paper on the underground health network in Syria.
Currently working as an editor for LinkTV, Solis is preparing for a career in cinema. "SF State taught me different ways of telling a story and thinking about cinema," he said. "The professors want you to think outside the box."
Graduating with a bachelor's in hospitality and tourism management, Kathleen Downing is already putting her training into practice. For the last year, she has successfully balanced her studies with a full-time job as a food and beverage manager at a golf and country club, where she leads a team of 35 front-of-house staff. "I chose hospitality management because I find it rewarding to make people happy," Downing said. "If you can make someone's day, you are giving the customer a memory that will really last."
During her time at SF State, Downing has played an active role in organizing Taste of the Bay, the annual food and wine fundraiser for the Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management. This past year, she served as event chair and led a committee of 25 students. Under Downing's leadership, Taste of the Bay raised a record-breaking $145,000, providing funds for more than 15 student scholarships. She has been involved in two other student organizations, worked at an event lounge in San Francisco and taken part in an internship at a winery in Napa.
Growing up in South Sacramento as the child of Mexican immigrants, Juan De Anda was often told that vocational school or the military was the best place for a Latino high school graduate. Determined to forge his own path, he enrolled instead in community college and transferred to SF State, where he will graduate with a double major in Latina/Latino Studies and journalism. Bridging these two fields, De Anda's work has focused on combating stereotypes and empowering Latino and other marginalized communities. He served as campus editor for the student newspaper, pushing for more coverage of social justice issues. He interns at Acción Latina, a non-profit media organization in San Francisco's Mission District that promotes Latino culture and civic engagement, and volunteers in Sacramento to help Latino youths get to college. To support himself and his family, he works full-time, seven nights a week between two jobs.
After graduation, De Anda will head to Miami to work as a news production intern at Univision networks, a position that evolved from one of his 12 scholarships. He plans to continue telling stories about community and social justice. "I want to go into media because I never saw an image of myself, a successful Latino," De Anda said. "I believe in voice amplification, in giving voice to those who don't have it or don't have the means to access it."
Taylor Baldry has always wanted to work with young children. Growing up, she enjoyed caring for her siblings and she has worked as a nanny since high school. At the same time, singing in the high school choir developed her interest in human voice issues. Baldry decided to combine both interests by pursuing a career in speech-language pathology, and she enrolled in SF State's communicative disorders program. On campus, she has served as a clinic aide in the speech and language disorders clinic. "Seeing patients make progress is so inspiring," Baldry said. "The gift of communication is amazing. This program has sparked a passion that I've never had about anything else before."
Baldry has tutored fellow students in anatomy and neurolinguistics classes, and been an active leader in the campus chapter of the National Student Speech-Language-Hearing Association. This fall she will begin a master's in communicative disorders at SF State, enabling her to become a speech-language pathologist.
Tyler Borrman loves problem-solving. When he came to SF State to study applied mathematics, he discovered new ways to use math to address real world problems. He joined Professor Javier Arsuaga's lab as a research assistant and became interested in bioinformatics, which involves using math, statistics and computer science to interpret biological data. Working with Professor Arsuaga, Borrman used mathematical models to analyze data from breast cancer patients, and he learned a new programming language, allowing him to investigate genes that may be associated with the recurrence of breast cancer. "I want to continue working with cancer data," Borrman said. "It's fun because I get to use math to analyze real data and it's a field where there are always new things happening."
This fall, he will begin a Ph.D. in bioinformatics and computational biology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, Mass.
Raised by his grandmother in Nicaragua until he was 17, Lobsang Marcia spoke limited English when he was reunited with his mother in the U.S. in 2006. Despite this limitation, he obtained his high school equivalency and completed a medical assistant training program, leading to a job working with uninsured HIV patients at San Francisco General Hospital. Working at the hospital inspired him to pursue a college degree that would provide the skills necessary to improve health outcomes for marginalized groups. As a student, Marcia's research has involved evaluating the risk for HIV and alcoholism among migrant day laborers. He volunteers in Berkeley to teach English to day laborers and helps this same population navigate San Francisco's health care program through a program at Stanford. In 2013, as an officer with SF State's Health Education Student Association, he helped organize the University's first public health summit.
Graduating with a bachelor’s degree in health education, Marcia plans to earn a medical degree so he can continue his work on behalf of vulnerable groups. "I've been able to see that the social aspect of health matters," Marcia said. "It's not just about how cells interact. It's about people and communities."
Growing up in Champaign, Ill., Kathryn Danielson developed at a young age a curiosity for the world around her, a curiosity that was fostered by her parents, who are both teachers. As a biology student at the University of Illinois, she saw that many of her fellow students were not getting the training they needed to effectively teach what they were learning. This was particularly troubling for Danielson, who was passionate about teaching the science behind climate change. She enrolled at SF State to work with the Science Education Partnership & Assessment Lab (SEPAL), and soon became the first biology education research student in the U.S. to receive a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. Her research explored how familiar undergraduate science students were with ocean acidification, and last year won the top award at an international symposium on the ocean in Monterey. Outside of the classroom, she works at the California Academy of Sciences, teaching and developing content for the Academy's teacher workshops program.
Graduating with a master's degree in biology, Danielson plans to continue her work in education research and help teachers at all levels discuss climate change. "What really interested me about SF State was you could pursue an advanced degree in biology while also pursuing education research," she said. "I wanted to be a scientist with teaching skills because I really saw a need for that."
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