College of Liberal & Creative Arts

University Dance Theatre: a student showcase and career stepping stone

Annual concert, March 30 – April 2, pairs student dancers with renowned choreographers to perform rigorous, expressive works 

San Francisco State University not only provides stages for performers to discover their artistic identity and develop their skills, but also public showcases that lead to opportunities in the Bay Area’s dance scene. The long-running University Dance Theatre concert, taking place this year from March 30 to April 2 in the Little Theatre, is a case study. Taught by Associate Professor Ray Tadio and Lecturer ArVejon Jones, the course pairs 19 student dancers with renowned choreographers to perform new, rigorous and expressive works.  

Jones attended San Francisco State alongside his twin brother Dar Vejon Jones, and the faculty noticed their talents right away. They participated in University Dance Theatre together and have gone on to successful careers in dance. Dar Vejon Jones (B.A., ’12) is a sought-after choreographer and a Master of Fine Arts candidate at City University of New York, Hunter College. 

ArVejon Jones (B.A., ’13) performs with Janice Garrett + Dancers, coaches for the African-American Shakespeare Co. and performs every holiday season in “The Velveteen Rabbit” for ODC/Dance. It was University Dance Theatre that introduced ODC/Dance and ArVejon Jones. With choreographers from ODC/Dance serving as guest artists for the event, he landed an apprenticeship at the company. 

ArVejon Jones selfie

“Through that networking opportunity and being in rehearsals with them at their institution and at school, it propelled me to go into the professional world. It was a catalyst,” he said. “It made everything happen a lot quicker.” 

As a student, he would spend 12 hours a day dancing, beginning with an 8 a.m. Pilates class at SF State and ending with evening classes off campus at Alonzo King LINES Ballet, with other Dance courses on campus in between.  

“I definitely remember my first time being in rehearsal as a student, and I was overwhelmed,” he said. “Now I look at it and I really see what everybody was trying to tell me.” 

‘SFSU has made me into the artist that I am today’ 

Johan Casal, double majoring in Dance and Cinema, is one of the latest successes. He is performing in two pieces at University Dance Theatre: Tadio’s Keith Haring tribute “Roxy” and guest choreographer Marlayna Locklear’s new contemporary/jazz work. Casal is also directing a short film based on the “Roxy” performance.  

He says this year’s event marks a true comeback from the COVID-19 pandemic, full of fresh ways to present dance as an in-person and on-screen experience. 

“There’s been such a great sense of collaboration and a new feeling,” Casal said, “and a new energy that comes out of iust being so stationary for the past two to three years." 

Casal has parlayed his SF State projects into a fast-rising career. He was hired as the lead dancer for Netflix’s “The Queen’s Ball: A Bridgerton Experience” in San Francisco last year and has launched his own film company, Kuya Johan Productions. He credits faculty and peers for helping establish connections, in both film and Filipino folk dance. 

“SFSU has made me into the artist that I am today,” he said. “Now I am ready to step beyond the campus.”  

Purchase tickets to University Dance Theatre. 

Learn more about the SF State School of Theatre and Dance. 

Study by professor, students finds over 600 LGBTQ+ protests occurred in U.S. in 1965 – 1973

The researchers say their study documents the very civil rights events that politicians seek to ban from school curricula today

In the first comprehensive survey of its kind, a San Francisco State University History professor and three graduate students have discovered that more than 600 LGBTQ+ protests took place in the United States between 1965 and 1973. The researchers say that the study documents the very direct-action events for civil rights — demonstrations, marches, parades, rallies, riots and sit-ins — that some politicians seek to ban from being taught in schools. 

OutHistory and Queer Pasts published the study jointly on March 1. Marc Stein, San Francisco State’s Jamie and Phyllis Pasker Chair in History, led the study with graduate student researchers Dylan Weir, Mario Burrus and Adam Joseph Nichols. Stein says that “Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his allies want to cancel, censor and closet” these types of events from U.S. history. 

“We’re seeing a wave of conservative campaigns that target the way we teach history in the United States, especially when it comes to teaching about race, gender and sexual orientation,” Stein said. “While it’s important that we respond, we also need to move forward with the necessary work of reconstructing the way we understand the past. For queer history, it’s not enough to only reference the Stonewall rebellion of 1969; we need to understand the mobilization and radicalization of a large social movement that lasted for years, organized in diverse locations, engaged millions of people and targeted multiple institutions in society.” 

The study identifies 646 direct-action protests, with more than 200,000 participants and nearly 200 arrests. Protests weren’t limited to New York and California: They took place in 20 states and the District of Columbia. The researchers pored over more than 1,800 media sources, going beyond well-known events such as the Stonewall Inn rebellion of 1969 in New York City and the transgender-led Compton’s Cafeteria riot in 1966 in San Francisco.  

In the nine years they reviewed, Stein and the students found San Francisco was the location of the most LGBTQ+ protests with 148, followed by New York City with 142 and Los Angeles with 93. Many smaller events they cite recall forgotten controversies of the era. A 1969 demonstration against restroom arrests at Macy’s in San Francisco lasted 21 days. The same year, the Committee for Homosexual Freedom led a continuous four-month protest against States Steamship Company in the city for firing its only openly gay employee. 

Weir credits a core group of activists with strengthening the LGBTQ+ movement following Stonewall and throughout the 1970s. 

“It is largely thanks to them that we have a society that is more inclusive and accepting today,” Weir (M.A., ’22) said. “This lesson is more relevant today than ever as we see political movements across the country that are trying to roll back the progress that the gay rights movement has made. If these activists could fight for inclusion in the extremely homophobic society of America in the 1960s and 1970s and make real progress, then we can stand up for those rights today.” 

Stein and his students will next document LGBTQ+ protests between 1974 and 1976. 

Learn more about the SF State History Department. 

Campus community pays tribute to women of Iran through music, poetry

Events for Women’s History Month also celebrate Iranian New Year, support Iranian Freedom Movement

San Francisco State University students, faculty and alumni are coming together for several events this month supporting women’s rights in Iran. Admission is free. 

Professor Persis Karim, director of the San Francisco State Center for Iranian Diaspora Studies, organized the events with Music Professor Hafez Modirzadeh. Karim says the events are a tribute to the “brave women, girls and youth of Iran and, more importantly, students, who continue to fight for their rights even in the midst of severe state violence.”  

“While the protest movement in Iran was sparked by the death in custody of Mahsa Jina Amini, a young Kurdish woman, and was initially a call for women’s rights to determine bodily autonomy, the movement has grown in its demands and across all sectors of Iranian society,” said Karim, who holds the Neda Nobari Distinguished Chair. “We have much to learn from these brave young people — who are risking their lives to demand freedom and to push for a vision of the future that is democratic and anti-authoritarian.” 

In celebration of International Women’s Day, renowned Iranian singer Marjan Vahdat and SF State Creative Writing Assistant Professor Tonya M. Foster will team up for a voice and poetry performance. (Foster holds the George and Judy Marcus Endowed Chair in Poetry.) Following, SF State students will present improvised readings with live Persian music accompaniment. This event takes place on Wednesday, March 8, from 1 to 3 p.m. in Knuth Hall. 

On Thursday, March 16, from 7 to 9:30 p.m., “To the People of Iran: Music for a New Year’s Liberation” features live Persian music to celebrate the Iranian New Year and support the people of Iran, in solidarity with the Iranian Freedom Movement. Performers include SF State students Shahin Shahbazi, Mona Shahnavaz, Samandar Deghani and Sirvan Manhoobi and alumni Pezhham Akhavass, Nasim Gorgani, Faraz Minooei and John-Carlos Perea (who is also an associate professor of American Indian Studies at SF State), among other special guests. This recital also takes place in Knuth Hall. 

On March 14 from 4 to 6 p.m., Foster will participate in “Undisciplining the Fields” with anthropologist, filmmaker, poet and educator Abou Farman at The Poetry Center.  

Shahbazi is a graduate student in music composition who plays the tar, a traditional Persian lute instrument. He immigrated to the U.S. from Iran in 2013. 

“The people in Iran need our voice. This is the time we stand with them,” he said. “I always try to be the voice out of Iran because I believe the young generation. They want change, they want freedom, they want to be equal. They deserve to be happy and to live their life.” 

The events are made possible with the support of a 2023 College of Liberal & Creative Arts Extraordinary Ideas grant. Additional support is provided by the Center for Iranian Diaspora Studies, the Poetry Center, George and Judy Marcus Endowed Chair in Poetry and the departments of History and Philosophy. 

Learn more about SF State’s Center for Iranian Diaspora StudiesSchool of Music and George and Judy Marcus Funds for Excellence in the Liberal Arts

SF State Bay Area Television Archive is a treasure trove of history on film — and streaming online

Students can license historical footage for their own work for free, while most filmmakers must pay to do so 

When filmmakers want access to historical footage of the Bay Area’s past, they turn to San Francisco State University, home to a massive and unique archive of local television news-film and documentaries from the 20th century. While Academy Award-winning films such as “Judas and the Black Messiah,” “Milk” and “O.J.: Made in America” paid market rate to license the footage, San Francisco State students may do so for their own work at no cost.  

Based in the J. Paul Leonard Library on campus, the Bay Area Television Archive features more than 135,000 videos from Bay Area television stations. A visit to the new Bay Area Television Archive website is a YouTube-like rabbit hole of a time machine dedicated to the issues and events that gripped the region decades ago.  

The original daily news coverage allows one to learn how major events unfolded and how communities responded when the word was spread. Curated collections feature the civil rights movement (including the Third World Liberation Front student strike at SF State), the Zodiac Killer, 1970s adult entertainment, old-school hip hop and much more. One can watch speeches by Martin Luther King and Maya Angelou’s entire KQED-TV series “Blacks, Blues, Black” from 1968 — rediscovered and restored by Alex Cherian, the Bay Area television archivist on staff, after not having been seen for decades. 

Footage from the archive has been used in more than 1,000 documentary, television and community projects in the last 15 years, with dozens more coming out every year.

“Back in the 1980s when these film assets were being disposed of by the local TV stations, SF State and the head of collections then, Helene Whitson, were the only people who were in the position to step up and say, ‘Don’t throw it away, give it to us. We’ll give it a home,’” said Cherian.

Saving history 

Cherian comprises a one-person shop, so far having preserved 6,000 hours of footage at the archive and digitized 350 hours (approximately 6% of the total collection) since he moved from his native England in 2007 to join SF State. He enjoys the arduous process of preservation. 

“You get an intimate feel for the film and you get the sense that — for want of a better phrase — you’re saving it,” he said.

Cherian can only save the documented history of the Bay Area on a reel-by-reel basis. Inside the archive’s climate-controlled vault, a staggering amount of footage is still waiting to be rediscovered. It would take decades to digitize it all, and some of it will deteriorate beyond repair.  

“San Francisco State is a natural home for this [archive] because we work closely with the community, and there’s so much social justice history preserved in these TV collections,” Cherian said. “...  It’s a primary resource for our history. It’s more of a philosophical thing, if you will, or an ethical thing than anything else. That’s why it’s here and that’s why we are doing our best to work with it.” 

Gloves on his hands and a loupe over his left eye, Cherian analyzes the worn, often-damaged analog film. Before proceeding to the digitization process, he must clean each frame of celluloid film and resplice it carefully where needed. Film scanning equipment, funded by a donation from the Friends of the J. Paul Leonard Library, digitizes footage into 4K resolution.    

Eva Martinez, Special Collections processing team lead in the J. Paul Leonard Library, often sees Cherian wheeling a cart full of film reels. “One could think that’s his main activity until you visit the Bay Area Television Archive web page. There, his craftmanship is evident,” Martinez said. “Because of Alex, we have a unique and invaluable film archive that preserves the history and diversity of Bay Area politics, communities and cultural life.” 

A great resource for students 

Student Matthew Cardoza discovered the Bay Area Television Archive when researching a story for a Journalism class about the student strike. He soon found himself watching video after video, offering him new insight into the history, geography and people that define the region where he has lived his entire life. 

In an SF State “Audio Journalism” class during the fall semester, Cardoza and fellow student Sarah Bowen pursued a story comparing pollution in the Bayview-Hunters Point area of San Francisco in the past to today. A 1969 interview with a community activist from KPIX-TV helped them build a comparison between environmental conditions of the past and the present, as they also conducted their own interview with a community activist of today. Their piece will air on KQED-FM public radio on Feb. 22.

“It’s a great use of resources to have for SF State students,” Cardoza said. “I think it’s a perfect way for students to incorporate historical footage of neighborhoods and about different events that occurred back in earlier decades. I think it will help myself and many other students out in a number of ways.”  

To inquire about licensing footage from the Bay Area Television Archive, visit the Using the Collections page or contact archivist Alex Cherian.  

SF State alum, author Ernest J. Gaines honored with USA stamp

Gaines (B.A., ’57) is most known for his novels ‘The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman’ and ‘A Lesson Before Dying’

A San Francisco State University alumnus is the latest American to be honored with a first-class stamp from the U.S. Postal Service. The late novelist Ernest J. Gaines is the face of the 46th stamp in the Black Heritage Series

Gaines (B.A., ’57) is known for writing about the people in small-town Louisiana where he was raised, often exploring enslaved people, their descendants and their enslavers. He rose to fame in 1971 with “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman,” a historical novel chronicling the recollections of its 110-year-old Black protagonist, whose life spans from slavery to the civil rights era. After garnering a nomination for the Pulitzer Prize, it was adapted into an Emmy Award-winning television movie starring Cicely Tyson. His novel “A Lesson Before Dying,” about a Black man on death row for a murder he did not commit, not only won the 1993 National Books Critics Circle Award, but was also an Oprah’s Book Club selection. President Barack Obama awarded Gaines the National Medal of the Arts in 2013. Gaines died in 2019 at age 86. 

“Ernest J. Gaines remains an important role model for Creative Writing students at San Francisco State,” said May-lee Chai, associate professor and acting chair of the Creative Writing Department. “We remind our students that his first short story was published in our undergraduate journal, Transfer Magazine, which he later said led to multiple opportunities for him as a writer. His legacy as a literary giant and advocate for social justice is deeply inspiring.” 

Gaines was born in 1933 on a plantation in Oscar, Louisiana. He lived in the same former slave quarters where his family had been residing for five generations. At age 15, he moved to the Bay Area — the Navy town of Vallejo — due to a lack of educational opportunities in the South. His region of rural Louisiana lacked both a high school and a library where Black people were welcome. After Vallejo Junior College and the Army, Gaines enrolled at SF State. 

“It was there that I really got seriously into the writing,” Gaines said in a 2016 interview with the Academy of Achievement of his time at SF State. “I had some wonderful teachers on the campus at that time who were writers as well. And they encouraged me to write.” 

Learn more about the SF State Creative Writing Department. 


Alum’s Oscar-nominated film shows transformative power of kindness

‘Stranger at the Gate’ is screening in San Rafael Feb. 28

San Francisco State University alumnus Conall Jones (B.A., ’05) was floored when he learned the short documentary film he produced with the production company Smartypants was nominated for an Oscar. “Stranger at the Gate” is his proudest accomplishment to date, but the film wasn’t getting critical recognition at first. It wasn’t accepted into the Sundance, Telluride or SXSW film festivals, he says. But Jones wasn’t looking for recognition — what he wanted was people to see the film because of its powerful message.

“Stranger at the Gate,” a 2022 film executive produced by Nobel laureate and education activist Malala Yousafzai and released by The New Yorker, isn’t what it seems. It starts off like a true crime story, with hints about a terrorist plot and a possible suspect. “This was intentional so we would have the widest appeal as far of viewers. We wanted to draw people into the story,” Jones said. But the story is so much more than that. “It ends with positivity and love,” he added.

­­­The film is about former Marine Richard “Mac” McKinney, who returned home from service in Afghanistan to Muncie, Indiana. He suffered from PTSD and saw Muslims as targets, something he learned in combat. Fueled by fear and hatred, he began making plans to bomb the local mosque. When he went to the Islamic Center of Muncie to gather proof that they were dangerous people, he was welcomed with kindness. Not only did McKinney drop his terror plot, he ended up joining the community and converting to Islam.

“The message of the film is so great, especially with so much division and hatred out there,” Jones said. “This film is a lesson in expanding your horizons as far as people you interact with.”

Eventually, the film had a successful film festival run, winning major awards at Tribeca Film Festival, Indy Shorts and others, which qualified it for the Oscars, Jones says. And now he's promoting the film at theaters across the country in the lead-up to the Oscars.

He isn’t typically involved in the promotion of films. As a producer, his role is mostly behind the scenes helping to plan and strategize shoots abd build out stories with directors and production executives. For “Stranger at the Gate” he mapped out all the logistics for the shoot, did pre-interviews with sources and even did on-camera interviews. After filming wrapped, he stayed on to help director Joshua Seftel edit the film and craft the narrative.

The School of Cinema alumnus says he learned how to be deliberate about his shoots while at San Francisco State. “Because we were limited in the film supplies we had ... you had to plan everything out,” he said. “Every shot had to be storyboarded and there had to be a reason for taking that shot. Every shot was $5 because film processing wasn't cheap.”

He admits he was a mediocre student until he took an introductory course on documentary film with Professor Greta Snider during his sophomore year. “My grades went from B’s and C’s to straight A’s my final year because I kept doing as many documentary-related classes as I could,” he said. “Academically, I got much stronger because I found my passion.”

After college, it took Jones a few years to find his footing in the documentary film and TV world. Once he moved to New York City he started freelancing. Now, he has producing credits on several major projects, including Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9,” Morgan Spurlock’s “Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!” and Netflix's “Worn Stories.”

“I’ve worked on tons of documentaries that, if you include all of the TV episodes I’ve worked on, it’s probably 60 to 70 pieces,” he said. “But this film is my favorite because of its message. I feel like the message can transcend audiences like no other film can. ... I would like everyone in the U.S. to see this film.”

Learn more about SF State’s School of Cinema.


SF State alum executive produces documentary on hoops legend Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf

Sarah Allen (B.A., ’99) focuses her journalism work on social justice in sports

Two decades before Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the National Anthem to protest police violence, another professional athlete faced severe consequences for refusing to salute the flag. Now, a San Francisco State University alumna has brought former National Basketball Association (NBA) player Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf’s unique story — and the tantalizing style he played the game — to an international audience. 

Longtime journalist Sarah Allen (B.A., ’99) is an executive producer for “STAND,” the biographical documentary about Abdul-Rauf featuring extensive interviews with him and other basketball luminaries. It premiered on Showtime on Feb. 3.  

“I fell into it because I really was intrigued by that whole conversation around athletes and activism,” Allen said. “I’m not as interested in giving somebody’s stats on the field. That’s boring to me. Athletes have stories that go beyond that.” 

Born as Chris Jackson in 1969 in Mississippi, Abdul-Rauf exhibited a dazzling display of skills and athleticism at only 6 feet and 1 inch tall. He used his battle with Tourette syndrome as motivation. “It looked like I was watching God play basketball,” Shaquille O’Neal, a teammate of Abdul-Rauf at Louisiana State University, said in the documentary. Allen said: “Clearly, he was Steph Curry before Steph Curry.” 

Abdul-Rauf’s career was cut short, however, after he decided to sit on the bench during pregame performances of “The Star-Spangled Banner” due to the continued oppression of Black people in America. He was suspended and then exiled from the league, and later his home was burned down in an act of white supremacy. Now age 54, he has enjoyed a career resurgence, dominating players much younger than him in the half-court BIG3 basketball league with the same skills he has always had. 

“Mahmoud is just very layered,” Allen said. “When you see his story, he’s had a lot of trauma in his life. When you look at him, he doesn’t seem like he’s been through everything he’s been through. And that is what intrigued me. And again, he’s a conduit for all these messages that are in the film and that I feel we should continue talking about.”  

Allen met Abdul-Rauf at the 2017 National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) conference, where he won an award. At the time, he was long out of the national spotlight and his story had been largely forgotten. Allen approached him and convinced him to do an interview, his first one-on-one with anyone in years. Their rapport has since evolved into Allen writing numerous stories on Abdul-Rauf and then negotiating his licensing agreement with Showtime and the contract for his 2022 memoir through Kaepernick Publishing.  

Sarah Allen headshot

Allen’s SF State story 

Allen grew up in the Fillmore District in San Francisco. After high school at Sacred Heart Cathedral, she attended Clark Atlanta University for one year before returning to the Bay Area. 

“San Francisco State has one of the best broadcasting programs in the country, so it was a no-brainer for me,” she said.  

By Allen’s third semester, though, she found herself on academic probation. She credits fellow Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts student Tiffany Griffith (B.A., ’99) with helping turn her academic career around. 

“She and I became fast friends and we started taking classes together. I started getting motivated to go to class, be awake during class, make sure I do my homework,” Allen said. “I think it took me about a year and a half to get off academic probation. And in a year and a half, I ended up back on the Dean’s List.   

“Once I really took it seriously, the mentors that I had there, they really made sure I succeeded,” Allen added. “And I’m just so grateful I had that experience because it really prepared me for real life.” 

Learn more about the SF State Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts Department. 

Alumna lands Emmy as part of Disney writing team

Hanah Lee Cook (B.A., ’15) is a writer for ‘Muppet Babies’ and other Disney shows

Hanah Lee Cook (B.A., ’15) is a little young for an Emmy winner. In December, the 29-year-old Gator was part of the creative team that landed an award for Outstanding Writing for a Preschool Animated Program for the Disney Junior reboot “Muppet Babies.” But then again Cook had a big head start on success: She’s known she wanted to be a comedy writer since she was in the sixth grade.

“My plan was to Tina Fey my way into the business because it’s tough to break in as an actor,” said Cook (referencing the “30 Rock” actress’ show biz beginnings as a “Saturday Night Live” staff writer).

Cook grew up in sunny Santa Clarita, California, where academics and athletics were heavily emphasized in her home. Yet she stayed fixated on winning laughs rather than trophies.

“I knew I wouldn’t be happy unless I were doing something creative with my day-to-day,” said Cook. “When I applied to SF State, I said, ‘I’m sorry, but I can’t go to this school and not do some form of performing art. … I’m here to make things and have a good time.”

When Cook arrived at San Francisco State in 2011, she already had an impressive resume underway: She had over a dozen theatre roles under her belt as an actor and had co-founded a sketch comedy troupe, all while in high school. During her sophomore year of college, Cook joined the SF State chapter of Delta Kappa Alpha, an arts-oriented, gender-inclusive fraternity. That led to more acting experience in Delta Kappa Alpha short films as well as her first full screenplay.

“It was about a girl with Asperger’s and her sister trying to have a conversation with her,” said Cook. “The whole time, the sister is trying to relate to her, and her sister is just staring at her cat and imagining if the cat has wings.”

Cook says that the script, like much of her writing, is influenced by her life experiences.

“It stemmed from growing up with a family member with Asperger’s,” said Cook. “It was difficult to engage with him. It meant a lot when he engaged and made eye contact with us.”

According to Cook, studying theatre and acting at SF State helped with her writing, specifically when she took multiple classes with Laura Wayth, assistant professor of Theatre & Dance.

“Laura Wayth, who teaches acting, was amazing,” said Cook. “I didn’t take a single screenwriting class. I learned how to write by doing the actor paperwork in the acting classes, where we identify what your character wants, what’s in their way and what they’re going to do to try to get it. That taught me how to write a story that’s not just a conversation about a difficult topic between two people.”

Wayth, who started teaching at SF State in 2013, recalls being immediately struck by Cook's creativity, wit and potential.

“She has a very analytical brain and an incredibly wry sense of humor, and those two things combined are stage dynamite that she’s channeled into her writing,” Wayth said.

Before graduating in 2015, Cook held multiple internships at small and large production companies as a production intern. She credits that experience with helping kickstart her career.

“I sometimes wish I had a fun summer break, but I would not be where I am if I hadn’t done that,” she said. “You really have to set your goals and be realistic about what you need to do.”

Upon graduation, she started as a production assistant for Warner Bros. Animation, later working for the company as an assistant production manager. She went on to hold positions at multiple animation companies, including Cartoon Network, as a freelance writer. In 2020, she landed what was supposed to be a six-month job as a script coordinator for Disney Television Animation. The supposedly temporary assignment never ended, however, and she eventually became a staff writer. Two and a half years later came the Emmy nomination and win.

“Just the nomination announcement and that my name was going to be on it was insane,” said Cook. “I totally felt like a fraud because I wasn’t a full-time staff member at the time. But we broke every story together. All of us are in all those episodes, and hearing that ‘Muppet Babies’ won, I think we all blacked out for a second.”

Turning her passion for writing into a career in animation isn’t just a childhood dream come true for Cook. She’s also following in the footsteps of her father, who works for Titmouse Animation Studios, the company behind “Big Mouth,” “Star Trek: Lower Decks,” the recent “Beavis and Butt-Head” reboot and other animated shows.

“I grew up in a big animation-oriented household, so it was always around,” said Cook.  

Now, as a writer working on a variety of Disney shows, Cook continues to use her own childhood experiences as inspiration for her work. Her inability to whistle inspired an episode she wrote for “Mickey Mouse Funhouse,” for instance.

“I did an episode where Daisy Duck can’t whistle,” said Cook. “She doesn’t know how, so they get Hercules’ muses to teach her. In the end, she can’t do it, but she learns she can do other things, and that’s OK.”

Including those kinds of inspiring messages in her scripts is important to Cook. She might be writing for children, but that doesn’t mean she avoids difficult topics.

“I’ll write about more personal things like little microaggressions I experienced as a kid,” said Cook. “Some people say it’s not relatable because not everyone experiences those things. I’ll say, ‘You’re right — this is for all the other kids who may be doing those things and not realizing their negative impact.’”

So though her day job allows her to fulfill the very goals she brought with her to SF State — making things and having a good time — she’s also found a way to bring extra meaning to the comedy she creates.

“What little effect I can have, what little thing I can do, I’m going to try to do it,” said Cook. “Luckily, Disney has been letting me.”

Learn more about SF State’s College of Liberal & Creative Arts.