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SF State students win national moot court competition

Olivia Clarke and Mayuu Kashimura are the 2024 National Moot Court Champions in the Respondent’s Brief category

Two San Francisco State University students beat teams from colleges across the country to win the American Moot Court Association (AMCA) Brief Writing Competition. Olivia Clarke and Mayuu Kashimura’s brief prevailed over more than 200 others submitted by students from schools like Yale, Clemson and UC Berkeley.   

“I was in shock when I first found out we won,” said Kashimura, a Political Science major who expects to graduate next May. “I remember calling Olivia as soon as I found out, and we were screaming.”

“I was ecstatic when I found out the news,” said Clarke, who’ll earn her Political Science degree this spring. “It was very surreal finding out that the brief we spent hours working on together had secured first place in the entire competition.”

Moot courts prepare students for the rigors of arguing a legal case. The brief competitions focus on the written arguments submitted by opposing sides. Clarke and Kashimura’s brief took the side of the respondent — the individual in the case rather than the government — to argue for a hypothetical woman’s right to use birth control as part of her freedom of religion and freedom of privacy.

“We picked this side because we felt like we were best equipped to argue a pro-respondent side,” said Clarke.

Clarke and Kashimura are members of San Francisco State’s relatively young Moot Court team. The team was created in 2017 when Nicholas Conway came to SF State as an assistant professor specializing in public law.

“As a part of joining the University and my college community, I wanted to contribute something and build a program that would allow our students to shine,” said Conway, who’s now an associate professor. “I had previously coached moot court while a graduate student, and after taking the job at SF State I wanted to leverage my prior efforts to give our students a vibrant educational experience. Luckily, I had a receptive audience in my Political Science department and in the College of Liberal & Creative Arts.”

The new Moot Court team met with success almost immediately. Gators Yana Gagloeva (B.A., ’19) and Liam Sidebottom (B.A., ’19) were the 2019 AMCA National Brief Writing Champions, and the team was ranked No. 19 in the nation last fall. Two other members of the team — Alistair Lee and Mckenna Clausman — placed 12th in the respondent’s brief competition, while two more — Lucien Tomlinson and Kira Hammons — advanced to the final 16 in the oral arguments competition before being eliminated.

Though moot court is often seen as a way to prepare students for law school and the legal profession, Conway says the skills it develops are useful in any field.

“Moot court helps students develop important critical thinking skills,” he said. “As a part of the oral argument portion of the competition, students must argue both sides of a case during tournaments. In preparing their arguments over the course of several months, the students really investigate their legal questions inside-and-out. I believe it is important for students to be able to hear differing perspectives and critically evaluate them to enhance their reasoning skills and better understand their own views.”

Another benefit is the bonding that comes from working together as a team.

“When you’re a ‘mooter,’ you work hard and spend a great deal of time with your teammates in practices, traveling to competitions, actually competing together, etc.,” Conway said. “In those processes, students get to know one another and become friends. Former competitors from many years past are close friends to this day. I think that sense of friendship and community in moot court can be an enriching experience for a college student.”

Learn more about SF State’s Moot Court team or email Conway to get involved as a team member or supporter.

SF State ranked eighth in the nation for social mobility

The University’s overall ranking also went up on this year’s U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges list  

U.S. News & World Report has ranked San Francisco State University eighth in the nation for social mobility in its 2024 Best Colleges list. San Francisco State’s overall ranking also jumped significantly over the previous year, up by 56, thanks to methodology changes that put more emphasis on social mobility and outcomes for graduates.

U.S. News & World Report changed its approach in response to criticism that some factors it previously weighted heavily, such as class size and alumni giving, tilted the scales in favor of wealthy private universities. For this year’s Best Colleges list, more than 50% of an institution’s rank was based on success in enrolling students from diverse backgrounds and graduating them with minimal debt. It also took the post-graduation success of graduates into account. As a result, several California State University (CSU) campuses saw significant jumps in their rankings, including SF State.

“SF State students come from diverse economic backgrounds — more than half of our students are fully supported by grant and scholarship aid,” said Senior Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management Katie Lynch. “It makes sense that we are an engine for social mobility, but it’s more than that. It is the experience that students have at State that allows them to give back to their families, communities and more.”

On the 2024 Best Colleges list, SF State is ranked:

  • #8 in Top Performers on Social Mobility (tied with Oakland City University in Oakland City, Indiana)
  • #96 in Top Public Schools
  • #178 in National Universities
  • #49 in Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs

Learn more about applying for admission and financial aid at SF State.

SF State awarded gold rating for campus sustainability

The ranking, given by the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System, was one of the highest for a CSU campus

San Francisco State University has been awarded one of the highest rankings available for campus sustainability: a gold from the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS). A program of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), STARS assesses the practices of colleges and universities across the country — only 150 of which achieved a gold rating. Of the 22 California State University (CSU) campuses taking part in the STARS assessment this year, San Francisco State was ranked third, behind only CSU, Chico and Cal Poly Humboldt.

“We have been working for a year to document our many sustainability initiatives and are very excited our score reflects SF State’s expanding sustainability program,” said Director of Sustainability & Energy Caitlin Steele.

Among the new efforts featured in SF State’s 2023 STARS assessment were Climate HQ, the University’s new communication hub for climate action, and a Climate Change Certificate program that gives students a foundational understanding of climate change’s causes, effects and solutions. Other highlights included policy changes that deepen the San Francisco State University Foundation’s commitment to socially responsible investing and efforts to ensure that new campus buildings are constructed with sustainability as a top priority. The three-year-old Manzanita Square mixed-use residential center has won another top national ranking for sustainability — a LEED Gold certification — while the Science & Engineering Innovation Center and a new West Campus Green housing unit, both currently under construction, have been designed to do so, as well. Manzanita Square is an all-electric building that supports the state of California’s decarbonization efforts. The Science & Engineering Innovation Center and the new West Campus Green housing development will also be all-electric.

Steele also points to the University’s hiring of its first climate action coordinator, Taylor Mogavero, as an indication of its commitment to sustainability. Mogavero will develop and implement campus sustainability programs, build relationships both internally and externally to support sustainability initiatives and support a campus culture that reflects sustainability, social justice and climate action values. Current projects include analyzing the University’s 2023 transportation survey and updating its transportation demand management report, analyzing greenhouse gas emissions and creating a new climate action plan.

“It’s been amazing working at SF State so far. The sustainability initiatives here are already so strong, and there is great potential to be even better,” said Mogavero, who came to work for the University in August. “Starting my experience at SF State by completing the AASHE STARS report was really enlightening. The report is so detailed and really makes you think about every aspect of the University. We received a great score, but there’s always room to improve.”

Learn about how SF State’s Office of Sustainability works to create a more a sustainable and equitable University.