Exceptional graduating students profiled
One outstanding student from each academic college, Liberal Studies/Special Majors and Graduate Studies will be honored at SF State's 110th Commencement on Saturday, May 21. They will each receive the symbolic hood on behalf of their fellow students. In addition, Aleksandr Pankov, hood recipient for the College of Science and Engineering, will be this year's student speaker. SF State News is pleased to introduce these students to the campus community and friends of SF State:
Behavioral and Social Sciences | Business | Creative Arts | Education | Ethnic Studies | Health and Human Services | Humanities | Science and Engineering | Liberal Studies/Special Majors | Graduate Studies
College of Science and Engineering: Aleksandr Pankov
After moving to the U.S. from Moldova at age 6, Aleksandr (Alex) Pankov grew up in San Francisco, attending Hebrew Academy before joining SF State. Pankov, a double major in statistics and applied mathematics, credits the University's Presidential Scholars Program as one of the reasons for his successful undergraduate career. "The Presidential Scholars Program granted me the opportunity to focus on learning and helped me discover my interests," said Pankov, who joined the research team of Javier Arsuaga, assistant professor of mathematics. His work with Arsuaga, which earned him recognition from the CSU system, explores how genes are changed by tumors and cancer, and how these mutations might influence the outcomes of potential treatments. In the fall, he will begin a doctorate in bioinformatics at University of California, San Francisco. Pankov has been chosen as the Commencement student speaker.
College of Behavioral and Social Sciences: Maria Gershenovich
Driven by the persecution her family faced because of their Jewish heritage, Russian-born Maria Gershenovich knew that the fastest ticket out of Russia was to become an athlete or prodigy. She became a ballroom dancer and at the age of 14 was invited to join a dance studio in the U.S. Gershenovich left her family and moved to Seattle, where she danced competitively. After reaching her peak as a dancer, she came to SF State and majored in criminal justice. During a class about the American constitution, Gershenovich saw the contrast with her family's experience of injustice and was inspired to become a lawyer. She has completed internships with a superior court judge, a criminal defense attorney and the District Attorney's Office. "It's so different watching justice unfold in the courtroom compared to reading about it," Gershenovich said. She will begin law school at University of California, Berkeley this fall.
College of Business: Perry Arnsfield
Perry Arnsfield spent 15 years managing his own woodworking business, but had to rethink his career after an industrial accident left him with limited use of his left arm. Arnsfield came to SF State and discovered decision sciences -- the use of math and computer modeling to help companies and government run more efficiently. As a Willie Brown Center intern, Arnsfield worked at San Francisco's Department of Public Works, where he helped analyze the efficiency of the routes taken by the City's street sweepers. "During my internship, my mentor Professor Raquel Pinderhughes helped me realize I could pursue a career using decision sciences to shape public policy," said Arnsfield. Graduating with a bachelor's in decision sciences, he plans to study public policy at graduate school. As a leader on campus, Arnsfield served as President of the Decision Sciences Student Association and was invited to join the prestigious Beta Gamma Sigma Honor Society.
College of Creative Arts: Simone van der Meer
A competitive gymnast since age 6, Simone van der Meer took dance classes to enhance her specialty in floor exercise. While majoring in dance and theatre arts at SF State, she taught and coached girl's gymnastics, performed in two productions choreographed by guest artists, choreographed her own work and designed costumes for productions. "It was a huge advantage to study with the same faculty over a four-year period," van der Meer said. "They were able to measure my growth as a dancer." As a student leader, she helped other students to teach and share their creativity through workshops and performances. As co-director of the University Dance Theater (UDT), she led fundraising campaigns that financed guest artists and sent 20 members of UDT to the 2011 American College Dance Festival in Long Beach. Van der Meer plans to pursue a career in dance performance and production as well as pilates instruction.
Graduating with a bachelor's degree in communicative disorders, Kimberlee Mountain's goal is to work as a speech-language pathologist, and eventually to earn a doctorate and teach at a university. After transferring to SF State from Shasta College, Mountain completed her degree in only three years. She served as a clinic aide in the speech and language disorders clinic on campus. "Seeing the difference that speech therapy made in the patients' lives was very rewarding and it confirmed that this is the career for me," Mountain said. In addition to her studies, she has learned teamwork as part of the University handbell choir. In the fall, Mountain will begin a master's in communicative disorders at SF State, enabling her to become a speech-language pathologist.
College of Ethnic Studies: Kyaw Min "Joe" Oo
A native of Burma, Kyaw Min Oo came to the U.S. to pursue an education and has learned that an organized community is a strong community. He has volunteered in many capacities to make the Bay Area Burmese American community more united and to help them find a voice in the U.S. To reach second generation Burmese Americans, he co-founded the Burmese Youth Association of San Francisco and currently serves on its Board of Directors. He says that everything he accomplishes is to honor his father, who died in Burma a few years ago. An Asian American Studies major, Oo plans to pursue a graduate degree in public administration or Asian American Studies. "When I first came to SF State I didn't know that I would discover that I share my struggle with many others throughout history and that I have the power not only to think, but to make change," Oo said.
College of Health and Human Services: Abraham Aviles-Scott
The youngest child in a large, San Joaquin Valley family of farm workers, Abraham Aviles-Scott grew up helping newcomers in his community and providing translation for others. "From the time I was a child, I observed the importance of helping others," Aviles-Scott said. "My parents always opened the door to individuals and families." Once in San Francisco, Aviles-Scott volunteered for agencies that prevent HIV/AIDS, family violence and gang activity. For the past five years, the Concord resident has worked as a bilingual case manager for EMQ Families First. Graduating with a bachelor's degree in social work, he plans to pursue a master's degree in counseling. Aviles-Scott, a singer with a passion for classical music, is an active performer with the Performing Arts Society of Contra Costa County. At SF State, he contributed his musical talent and organizational skills to concerts benefitting earthquake relief efforts in Haiti and Japan.
College of Humanities: Jessica Sederquist
Growing up in Grass Valley, Sederquist was inspired by her mother's commitment to community. Taking a more global approach, Sederquist has worked to redefine traditional development projects that have left out women's voices. She credits the Women and Gender Studies faculty for motivating her to take transnational feminist theory beyond academia. She has interned at Human Rights Watch, Peace Action West and Women's Earth Alliance. She spent her junior year studying abroad in Ghana, where she was a chief volunteer with an organization that assists women and children with housing, health and vocational support. "I'm infinitely inspired by the passion and resilience of the women I have worked with," Sederquist said. A double major in Women and Gender Studies and International Relations, Sederquist hopes to complete an advanced fellowship.
Liberal Studies/ Special Programs: Katreena Tolentino
As a Filipina-American growing up in Daly City, Katreena Tolentino noticed that Asian American culture was largely absent from her grade school curriculum. Determined to change this for future generations, she decided to become a teacher. She enrolled in SF State's Liberal Studies Teacher Education program, allowing her to earn a degree in liberal studies and a teaching credential simultaneously. She particularly enjoyed a class on Asian American children's literature. "The class inspired me to take my poetry more seriously and to use it in my teaching" said Tolentino, who is preparing to publish a children's book of poetry. She completed her course in just three and a half years and graduated at the top of her class in fall 2010. Since graduating, she has been volunteering in California's first Hmong charter school in Sacramento.
Graduate Studies: Patrick Lapid
After graduating from the University of California, Santa Cruz, Patrick Lapid earned a teaching credential at SF State and became a high school math and economics teacher. Teaching was rewarding, but he wanted to deepen his expertise in economics. He applied to the master's program in economics, but as a reservist in the U.S. Marine Corp, Lapid was called to active duty just after he was offered a place in the program. In 2008, he was deployed to Iraq, where he received a Certificate of Commendation. When he returned, he enrolled at SF State, where he excelled in his studies and conducted a research project comparing the earnings of post-9/11 veterans to non-veterans. This fall, he will begin a Ph.D. in economics at the University of California, Berkeley, with a full Chancellor's Fellowship. "SF State allowed me to retool my career twice -- first when I became a teacher and again when I decided to pursue a career in economics," Lapid said.