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Student enjoys Beltway life in internship with Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute

Lluvia Castillo is passionate about a career in public service, beginning in her hometown near the California/Oregon border 

A San Francisco State University student received real-life civics lessons on the Beltway every day this semester, thanks to her participation in a leadership program. Selected for The Fund for American Studies’ Capital Semester internship, Lluvia Castillo worked at the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute in Washington, D.C. 

As an administrative intern, Castillo served as the assistant to Mary Ann Gomez Orta, CEO of the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute, a nonprofit organization founded by members of Congress to advance the Hispanic community’s economic progress with a focus on social responsibility and global competitiveness. Castillo shadowed the CEO at meetings and events with elected officials, took notes and updated financial documents. When not at work, Castillo took classes at George Mason University and lived several blocks from the U.S. Capitol. She also enjoyed visiting the historic monuments and having the opportunity to meet Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the first Latina to be elected to Congress, and others. 

“Not only do they work with a lot of people in diverse backgrounds, but with Congress,” Castillo said. “I felt like I can learn new skills and take them back home and implement them in my community. That way I can help my community out.” 

Castillo, a Political Science major, plans to pursue a career in public service, beginning in her hometown of Dorris. The agricultural town in rural Siskiyou County sits along Highway 5 near the Oregon border. It is in California, but geographically and culturally a world away from San Francisco. Its population is 860 according to the U.S. Census, down 8% from 2010. Castillo describes the area as lacking overall support for its immigrant farmworker population in addition to convenient access to healthful food and other resources. 

“People have to drive if they want to even get fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, fresh anything. We would have to drive up to Oregon,” said Castillo, a first-generation college student. 

This summer, she’ll go home to Dorris and volunteer with Ore-Cal Resources and Conservation Development, where she has helped develop a community garden, before returning to SF State for her final year. 

She says a San Francisco State class, “The Politics of Immigration in the United States” taught by Professor of Political Science Ron Hayduk, motivated her to pursue a career in public service.  

“He’s the reason why I’m here in D.C. He would email us about internships, and he was that professor,” Castillo said. “His way of listening and encouraging us was one thing that changed me. He was out there pushing us, but also teaching us why immigration is important and why we should go out there and do things for the people who don’t have any voices.” 

Learn more about the SF State Political Science Department. 

Student named All-American in forensics after placing third in national tournament

Political Science major’s speech garners standing ovation from judges and peers moved to tears 

A member of the San Francisco State University Forensics team made school history this month with several top honors at a national tournament, including an All-American award. But it’s the impassioned performance that may have the longest-lasting impact.  

Student Kivraj “Ki” Singh (pronouns: that/that’s), San Francisco State’s sole representative at the American Forensics Association National Speech Tournament in Santa Ana, earned third place nationwide in After-Dinner Speaking, among 126 competitors including Ivy League schools. In addition, that was named an All-American and an Oral Interpretation semifinalist.  

“Each of Ki’s speeches was written and performed from the deepest parts of that’s soul, and it’s heartening to know that so many others were able to witness and celebrate that’s work,” said Sage Russo, a Forensics coach and a Communication Studies lecturer. “The team couldn’t be more proud.” 

Singh (pictured at top left, holding trophy) delivered a speech advocating for safe injection and consumption sites for drug users, based on their lived experiences as well as case studies and research. That garnered a standing ovation from judges and peers who were moved to tears. 

“After coming out in high school, I struggled with alcoholism, homelessness, weed and tobacco use and some hard drugs as well,” Singh said. “I had a lot of personal insight into the subject, but my speech also came at a time that was very exigent because Gov. Gavin Newsom had just vetoed a bill that was going to include safe injection sites in many California cities. It gave it a fresh and unique spin.” 

Singh graduates this May with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science. That entered SF State after competing in forensics at Chabot College and at James Logan High School in Union City. A class discussion on source citation from Singh’s first semester at SF State invigorated Singh, introducing a more advanced curriculum and setting the tone for an inspirational University experience. 

“I really had this revelation sitting in class, like whoa! This is going to change the game for me! This is what I’ve been waiting for!” Singh said. “This is where it gets technical and it becomes political science.” 

On campus this year, Singh has enjoyed a George and Judy Marcus Undergraduate Fellowship. This donor-funded program has funded that’s research paper, “Democratic Queer Theory: Extending LGBTQ+ Civil and Social Rights Globally,” in partnership with a faculty mentor, Assistant Professor of Political Science Amanda Roberti. Singh plans to use it as a sample paper in applying to doctoral programs in political science.  

Learn more about the SF State departments of Political Science and Communication Studies and the George and Judy Marcus Funds for Excellence in the Liberal Arts

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.