Veteran Documentary Corps receives grant from Veteran’s Administration to make ten films

San Francisco State University Professor and Director of Veteran Documentary Corps, Daniel Bernardi, has received a grant from the National Cemetery Administration's Veterans Legacy Program to make ten films honoring veterans interred in six national cemeteries.

The Veterans Legacy Program (VLP) commemorates the nation's veterans and service members through the discovery and sharing of their stories. The VLP encourages students and teachers around the country at the University and K-12 levels to immerse themselves in the rich historical resources found within Veteran Administration's National Cemeteries and Veteran Administration grant funded cemeteries.

The VLP grant is for $487,674.00. With it, Bernardi plans to make the films with the help of three School of Cinema graduate students, numerous undergraduate interns, and alumni filmmakers such as Andrés Gallegos, Hannah Anderson, Robert Barbarino, and Joshua Cardenas, among others.

"Not only do we get to make films about veterans, showing the diversity of that community, but we make them with students involved in all stages of production," says Bernardi. "We also bring back accomplished alumni to take on directing, cinematography and editing roles, thereby giving our students that chance to learn from the best while seeing where they can end-up with hard work and creative thinking."

Among the films that will be made are the first trans woman elected to public office (U.S. Army), a Lesbian couple that won the right to be buried together (U.S. Air Force), a member of the first African Americans allowed in to the Marine Corps (U.S. Marine Corps), a member of the all-African American 6888 during WWII (U.S. Army), a Buffalo Soldier (U.S. Calvary), and a Native American leader (U.S. Army).

The Veteran Documentary Corps is one of six grantees. The other recipients are the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, Loyola Marymount University, Santa Fe Community College, University of Central Florida, and the West Virginia Humanities Council. "Working with educational institutions and non-profit organizations furthers the National Cemetery Administration's mission while preserving the legacies of our nation's heroes," according to Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs Matt Quinn.

View past films by the Veteran Documentary Corps on YouTube.


Veteran Documentary Corps

Veterans Legacy Program

Assistant professor of Design Fernando Carvalho receives funding grant to develop course combining digital tools with traditional building techniques

San Francisco State University Assistant Professor Fernando Carvalho has been named one of fifty-one educators to receive funding from a new grant program launched by online learning platform Course Hero, designed to support a wide range of faculty submitted “dream projects.”  

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Writing into the unknown: a conversation with Marcus Endowed Chair Tonya M. Foster

The acclaimed poet joined SF State’s Creative Writing faculty last fall

Tonya M. Foster uses all types of words in her poetry: big and small, beautiful and vulgar. It is a key tactic of the San Francisco State University Creative Writing assistant professor’s ongoing study of language.

Publisher’s Weekly praised her 2017 book-length poem “A Swarm of Bees in High Court” as “the rare debut collection that displays a marvelous understanding of how to merge form and content … sonically rich, complex in its formal elements and constraints and haunting in its examination of dislocation.”

“AHotB,” the title of Foster’s forthcoming poetry book, is an acronym for “A History of the B---h.” Adopting Fanny Lou Hamer’s idea that “a Black woman’s body is never hers alone,” Foster completed it last year during a fellowship at Harvard University.

Foster joined San Francisco State last fall as one of four Marcus Endowed Chairs, tenure-track positions established with a $25 million donation from alumni George and Judy Marcus. Now, SF State students work closely with the New Orleans-raised poet known for electric lyricism and expansive interpretations of language.

What inspired you to pursue poetry and academia for a career?

For a long time, I think that I considered myself a reluctant poet — someone who wrote poetry but thought, OK, there were all these other things I did, and teaching was one of those things.

Teaching was, for me, a space where you could be in community around learning something, discovering something. I’ve never been particularly interested in mastery. I’m much more interested in ideas of expertise and being open to discovering.

What made you choose to come to San Francisco State?

SF State has an incredible history in terms of Black Studies. To be at an institution that’s important for ethnic studies, I thought that’s a wonderful place for me. What I hope to learn is how these questions of justice — and where Black students are concerned — are energized and more animated, and how can I be a part of that.

Tell us about your new project, “AHotB.”

It’s poetry and prose. There are autobiographical elements in it, but it’s certainly a meditation on and about Black women. An interrogation of the [fictitiousness] of Black womanhood is what it is. I’m very interested in multiple registers of language.

And where does the “b-word” fit in? What does it represent in this project and the meaning behind it?

Well, it’s the word I would never say to people I care about, right? But it is the word, it’s the vision of Black womanhood that has been pervasive in many ways. I’ve been trying to track both uses of the term and also the ways that women have tried to reclaim that term and make it mean its opposite. That kind of intervention is rarely successful, and yet I think it’s a mode. It’s an attempt to do something else.

I’m just trying to sit with it, think through it, imagine through it. When are the moments when women are being called out of their name? By this name? What are the actions, what are the engagements that are being disapproved of and remarked upon?

I don’t just want to describe it, actually. I guess I want to interrogate it. I want to see where it leads. I don’t know yet how the dots connect. I’m curious about that.

It goes to this point I’m often talking to students about: writing into the unknown. If you’ve already decided what the conclusion is, why write it? Somehow, you write into the unknown — you write into the discovery of something that you didn’t otherwise know.

Read Foster’s poem “Testimonial Testify,” excerpted from “AHotB,” in The A-Line: A Journal of Progressive Thought.

Learn more about the Creative Writing Department at SF State.

Pier life: Alum and retired professor finds heaven among Coastside outsiders

You don’t have to put on airs around Toni Mirosevich, whose new book explores the people of a seaside pier  

Jobs in truck driving, restroom maintenance and attic insulation attracted Toni Mirosevich. Anything involving manual labor, she felt at ease — until chronic fatigue syndrome arrived in her 30s. She then discovered a new vocation using her hands. Writing led to a distinguished career as an author, poet and San Francisco State University professor spanning three decades.

Along the way, Mirosevich — a San Francisco State alumna and professor emerita of Creative Writing — and her wife have forged an unlikely bond with the denizens of a seaside pier about 8 miles south of campus. Mirosevich’s new collection, “Spell Heaven and Other Stories” (Counterpoint Press), is a fictionalized account of the fishers, crabbers, surfers, drifters and other “outsiders” whose ways of life draw them to the 49-year-old pier that extends nearly a quarter mile into the ocean. Characters like The Crab King, Kite Man and Tommy Bench are based on five elderly men who sit together on a bench and talk every day.

“These are my people. You don’t have to put on airs around them,” Mirosevich (M.A., ’92; MFA, ’94) said during a walk along the pier on a recent sunny and windy afternoon. She visits twice a day from her home up the hill, often accompanied by her wife and dog. “I grew up around fishermen who knew the art of bulls--t. People here know how to bulls--t you, and I feel very comfortable with that.”

Mirosevich has chronicled the Pacifica community for decades, including her 2005 poetry collection “Queer Street.” Her short-story collection “Pink Harvest: Tales of Happenstance” won the 2007 First Series in Creative Nonfiction Award from Mid-List Press and was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award.

Mirosevich says being so close to the sea loosens people up.

“My wife said that someone told her, ‘All the marbles roll from the edge of the continent,’ so things are a little crazier down here, too,” she said. “And that’s good, too.”

‘Not a straight shot’

Raised in a working-class Croatian American fishing family and immigrant community in Washington state, Mirosevich enjoys manual labor. After she could no longer perform such physically demanding work, she began to write about her condition.

“I always tell people it’s not a straight shot what you think you’re going to do,” she said.

At SF State, an English professor named Judith Breen dissuaded her from dropping out.

“I took her modern Canadian fiction class and at the time was very ill and didn’t think I could continue in the graduate program. I went to visit her during office hours to drop out, and she encouraged me to stay in the program,” Mirosevich said. “In essence, she encouraged me to persist. If it hadn’t been for that office visit and her belief in my ability to overcome the limitations of the illness, I wouldn’t have gone on.”

The Finders

Mirosevich has gone on to pay it forward as a mentor to countless SF State students. Once a first-generation college student herself, she relates to them as she does the people of the pier.

“When I think about Toni, words that come to mind are generosity, humility, kindness and humor,” says Tanu Wakefield (MFA, ’06), who has remained friends with Mirosevich since graduating from SF State. “The most important thing that Toni taught me was to be generative as a poet: to generate as much material as we could.”

Wakefield is a member of a writing group of six SF State Creative Writing alumni convened by Mirosevich two years ago. They call themselves “The Finders” and meet on Zoom for two hours a week.

“It’s been amazing. Toni is someone who can come up with unique strategies and just ways of being quick on your feet and quickly responsive to work,” said Wakefield, a past poet laureate for the city of Belmont.

Ann Guy (M.A., ’18; MFA, ’20) is also in The Finders.

“Having this group in the pandemic saved me and opened my mind,” Guy said. “It’s magic. It’s just what she does.”

Mirosevich’s next public reading for “Spell Heaven” takes place May 25 at Green Apple Books on the Park in San Francisco. She will be in conversation with SF State Lecturer Emerita Frances Phillips.

Learn more about the Creative Writing Department at SF State.

Marcus Transformative Research Award recipients named

Three College of Liberal & Creative Arts faculty members are this year's recipients of the Marcus Transformative Research Award and will support research in topics spanning the decolonizing of communication research, empowering history collection in Ghana and recovering the works of a 19th century composer.

The Marcus Transformative Research Award provides one semester leave with pay and a $3,000 research budget. The award is made possible by the George and Judy Marcus Funds for Excellence in the Liberal Arts, which was established in 2018 with a $25-million gift to SF State.

Cristina Azocar

Journalism Professor Cristina Azocar will produce an edited book that seeks to shift the focus of Eurocentric methodologies and theories within the discipline of mass communication. With "Decolonizing Mass Communication Research," Azocar will place Indigenous voices and epistemologies at the center of the research process, providing communication scholars of color with a research pathway to include the inherent knowledge of their lived reality.

The book will be targeted for researchers, providing a framework for graduate students and academics as well as a resource in theory classes in mass communication, journalism, and other related disciplines.

Trevor Getz

"Youth Participatory Action History in Ghana" is a research and curricular framework planned by History professor Trevor Getz that employs community-engaged methodologies to empower and train youth in Ghana to collect, interpret, and direct publication related to their own community's history. It's a novel approach that positions students as expert history researchers, exploring the potential for historian-assisted communities to use this method to understand their relationship over time to the spaces and networks in which they live.

The output generated by students is meant to be open-ended but it's anticipated that a variety of public-facing works will be created including video documentaries in short format like TikTok, as well as uploaded to YouTube.

Brad Hogarth

With "The Music of Francis Johnson," Music professor Brad Hogarth plans to transcribe the works of prolific 19th Century African American composer and performer, Francis Johnson (1794 –1844). Johnson, whose music has largely been lost to time, wrote more than two hundred compositions of various styles—operatic airs, Ethiopian minstrel songs, patriotic marches, ballads, cotillions, quadrilles, quicksteps and other dances.

Working with manuscripts provided by the University of Pennsylvania's Kurt Stein collection of Francis Johnson, Hogarth will adapt and transcribe these works for modern ensembles ranging in size and difficulty; from collegiate and professional ensembles to more accessible forms so that public schools in the United States can easily add more under represented composers into their curriculum.

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Cristina Azocar | Trevor Getz | Brad Hogarth

New SF State School of Art director weaves diversity, inclusion into curriculum

When Victor De La Rosa was an Art major at San Francisco State University in the 1990s, he longed for a Latinx faculty mentor. Then he became one. Now, as the director of his alma mater’s School of Art, he is seizing the opportunity to make a wide impact of his own.

“I have a personal goal, which is to start to assemble a faculty that reflects the students that we serve,” said De La Rosa, who joined the San Francisco State faculty in 2006. “Now I’m able to respond directly and immediately. I don’t have to wait.”

SF State and many other art schools have committed to new diversity initiatives in direct response to the murder of George Floyd last year. New classes at SF State include Mexican American art history, muralism, “Art as Social Function: Chicanismo, Latinismo y California” and “Studio X,” a public art course taught by a different Bay Area artist each semester focusing on BIPOC student challenges. The School of Art also established a stipend award for Black students, and De La Rosa has participated in a College of Liberal & Creative Arts leadership development program based in equity and social justice.

“The art world, too, hasn’t created equal opportunity in this country,” he said. “It hasn’t always responded, even though artists are incredible social changemakers [and] incredible mirrors for our society. The field of art has really been an exclusive club, and it doesn’t fully mirror the population of this country.”

“When Vic was elected as director of the School of Art, I knew this was going to show our students of color — and especially Latinx students — that they, too, can start imagining themselves as professors and leaders in the university,” Art Professor Santhi Kavuri-Bauer said. “He understands the significance of his position and what it means to students who have similar backgrounds as himself: the first in their family to attend college.”

De La Rosa was raised in San Leandro as the son of a Mexican immigrant mother and Mexican American father from Texas. He took some semesters off from SF State to pursue career opportunities in apparel design, but would always eventually find his way back to the Fine Arts Building — with the support of faculty such as Candace Crockett.

“I realized that education was the way to disrupt the cycle,” he said, “and I want to do that for other students.”

De La Rosa (B.A., ’99) earned MFAs from UC Davis and the Rhode Island School of Design, where he was a President’s Scholar and won an award of excellence.

“I meet students today who are from similar backgrounds to me when I was growing up: first-generation, parents from another country,” he added. “To me, it’s exciting because I know the potential. I know the possibility if you apply yourself, work hard and hang in there.

“The students are hungry for it because they also did not get that type of role modeling in the arts in high school or junior high school. It’s so refreshing to them.”

Victor Saucedo, a senior and founding member of the SF State chapter of the Art Student Union, had stopped making art until he took “Chicanismo, Latinismo y California” with De La Rosa.

“He opens up the floor to everyone to start speaking where they’re coming from and their truth,” Saucedo said. “He told us to challenge the system a bit. … He is one of the most open professors I’ve ever had.”