Twelve outstanding graduates will be onstage to represent the Class of 2018 at AT&T Park on Thursday, May 24 during San Francisco State University’s 117th Commencement ceremony. Nearly 8,500 degrees will be conferred this year, and more than 4,700 graduates will attend the event.
As part of a longstanding tradition, each of the University's six academic colleges selects two students — one undergraduate and one graduate — for the honor of representing their classmates during the ceremony by wearing their college's academic hood.
Two of the 12 students, one undergraduate and one graduate, will deliver comments during the ceremony. The student speakers are undergraduate Arianna Vargas, College of Ethnic Studies and College of Health & Social Sciences, and Angela Torres, Graduate College of Education.
Graduate hood recipient, College of Liberal & Creative Arts
Ellie Lobovits, a Massachusetts native, is a filmmaker and activist. After she received her undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania in anthropology, she spent a year in Ethiopia working as a medical volunteer and English teacher.
While earning her graduate degree from SF State in Anthropology, she received the Edward Kaufman, Provost and Carolyn Irene Howard Memorial awards. For her master’s thesis, she made the documentary film, Birth on the Border, that tells the stories of women crossing the border from Ciudad Juárez in Mexico to give birth in El Paso, Texas. Against the backdrop of oppressive U.S. border policy, these women’s stories of risk and resilience reveal the complexities of life on the U.S.-Mexico border.
“I’ve been an activist for women’s health and reproductive justice my whole adult life, really since I was a high school student, and this film is an extension of that work,” she said. “I felt that this was a story I could bring to light that would be a counter-narrative to the racist rhetoric that’s been pervasive in the our current political climate.” Her film opened in Oakland and helped raise funds for Luna Tierra, a midwifery center in El Paso.
Lobovits is a trained childbirth doula and a published writer. Her article, “Where a River of Life Became a Border of Control,” which explores the connections between the control of people and the control of nature on the U.S.-Mexico border, was recently published in the anthropological magazine Sapiens.
Undergraduate hood recipient, College of Liberal & Creative Arts
Toni Eby, a Mississippi native, entered college 23 years after she completed high school. In between high school and college, Eby became enmeshed in sex trafficking and suffered repeated physical and sexual abuse. She was heavily addicted to drugs, which led to repeated run-ins with the criminal justice system. Eventually, she was referred to a program for survivors of sexual violence that helped her heal and gave her a fresh start. Since then, she’s used her personal experience to inspire and advocate for other survivors of sexual violence, with a particular focus on the LGBTQ community.
Eby came to SF State because she wanted to earn a degree in a field that would complement her life experience ― Women and Gender Studies. For the past seven years, Eby has counseled clients at San Francisco SafeHouse, a transitional housing facility for homeless women who are leaving sex trafficking and other sexually exploitative situations – the same program from which she sought help 10 years ago. She works full time as an outreach and training manager.
“Having experienced this adds a lot of credibility when you’re talking to women, but I also recognized that I needed more education,” she said. “I’m really interested in women and the different ways groups of women experience life, and I’ve been able to learn that as a Women and Gender Studies major.”
She hopes to continue to graduate school in social work and wants to eventually develop a program that serves trafficked women in the South. “They don’t have a lot of programs in the South to help sexually exploited women,” she said. “I have a responsibility to go home and fix some of those social issues.”
— University Communications