Student Spotlight

Photojournalism Majors Receive $3,000 Grants

Talika Fletcher consoles a fellow protester during a vigil and march held in memory of Roger Allen and Daunte Wright in San Francisco. Allen, Fletcher’s brother, was shot and killed by Daly City police April 7. Photo by Harika Maddala.

 

San Francisco State University’s Department of Journalism has awarded $3,000 Fran Ortiz Photojournalism project grants to photojournalism senior Harika Maddala and photojournalism junior Amaya Edwards. Edwards’ project focuses on Black birth justice, while Maddala’s project focuses on the aftermath of police-involved violence.

The grant is named for San Francisco Examiner photojournalist Fran Ortiz, a friend and mentor to generations of Bay Area photojournalists and SF State’s first photojournalism teacher. A film about Ortiz is available at the John Gorman Archives.

The Fran Ortiz Photojournalism Grant was created in 2018 by Reuters photojournalist and editor Gary Cameron in partnership with the SF State photojournalism sequence. Cameron was one of Fran Ortiz’s students and the University’s first photojournalism graduate.

“I’m particularly proud that the two winning entries of Fran’s Grant for this year are so timely and needed in the current state of affairs in the United States,” Cameron said. “As we moved forward with Fran’s Grant, we too are learning each year regarding the projects submitted, but equally important, the needs of the student to fulfill that project. Congratulations to both Amaya and Harkia; take your projects to the best possible conclusion, grow within yourselves, and be part of a great photographer’s legacy.”

Concepts of Home Take New Significance in Student Exhibition

Theatre Arts student Jerikka Brittani Gamboa contributed the video “The Jeri Diaries” to “Imagining Home.”

 

When the Bay Area shelter-in-place order went into effect last March, students were just six weeks away from debuting their multimedia exhibition on the theme of home. Originally planned for temporary display in the Humanities Building, “Imagining Home” moved to a website that will remain live in perpetuity. Students’ concepts of home changed, and it is reflected in their very personal work.

“Imagining Home” integrates topics such as motherhood, food, cultural heritage, racism and houselessness. It features video diaries, short films and essays from 21 students in five classes in Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts, CinemaCommunication StudiesLiberal Studies and Theatre Arts. The College of Liberal & Creative Arts’ Extraordinary Ideas Grant helped support “Imagining Home.”

Hiromi Barnes, from Tanya Augsburg’s Liberal Studies Senior Seminar, contributed an essay about the comfort that Japanese snack food provided her after it was left behind when her roommate had to move out with little notice.

“It was in the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and I, as an Asian immigrant, had to deal with my waves of emotions,” Barnes said. “Dr. Augsburg’s flexibilities and supports for this assignment and the second half of the spring 2020 semester gave me a great sense of relief. I could freely write about my fears and frustrations.”

Janice Domingo, a graduate student in Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts, found home in cooking during the pandemic. Using footage shot by her friends, she produced a cooking show sharing their recipes from Saint Kitts and Nevis, Ethiopia and Portugal.

“These are three cultural dishes that I love now because of my friends. Those are my friends’ ‘homes,’” said Domingo, a content insertion assistant for Disney Streaming Services and co-host of the forthcoming podcast “Oh for Food’s Sake.” “Cooking for them is definitely a communal event.”

Jazmine Logan, a graduate student in Theatre Arts, created “Finding Home.” Filmed in her bedroom at her parents’ home in the San Diego area, the video is a monologue sharing her inner thoughts. She originally designed it as a live performance.

“I found home through my family and the people who love around me. That’s my home,” said Logan said, who will enter a doctoral program in theatre at UC San Diego this fall. “It’s not necessarily a fixed location, as long as you have the people around you who love you, support you and care for you.”

“Imagining Home” will become a yearly project, with both in-person and online student work planned.

SF State to Recognize 12 Outstanding Graduates During 2021 Virtual Commencement

Ying Wencie Hoang (left) and Philip-Izac Evangelista Enguancho

 

Twelve outstanding graduates will be honored during San Francisco State University’s 120th Commencement ceremony, the second to be held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, on Friday, May 21. They will represent their more than 8,400 peers in the Class of 2021.

As part of a longstanding tradition, each of the University’s six academic colleges selects an undergraduate and a graduate student to represent their classmates and wear their college’s academic hood during the ceremony. More details about the ceremony are available on the Commencement website.

Philip-Izac Evangelista Enguancho

As a graduate scholar in Communication Studies, Philip-Izac Evangelista Enguancho focused his culminating creative project on examining Filipino American and hip-hop culture through an autoethnographic performance. His work brought to the forefront voices, stories and bodies of a community that has been historically marginalized. In a world that has invested very little time in understanding Filipino history within the context of U.S. imperialism, Enguancho is committed to that work.

As a teacher, he excels in making abstract theoretical materials accessible and inviting to his audience, often using hip-hop lyrics and examples from popular culture. He led a group of his colleagues to challenge the department to actively pursue anti-racist policies and helped develop an anti-racist curriculum. He was instrumental in getting open educational resources so that materials for an introductory course will be zero-cost for students beginning in fall 2021.

Ying Wencie Hoang

Ying Wencie Hoang graduates with a Bachelor of Arts in Cinema and a minor in Race and Resistance Studies. Throughout her studies, she maintained a 4.0 grade-point average — the highest among all graduating Cinema students. She currently works as a publicity assistant on her College’s communications team, where she tells stories about the College’s faculty, students and alumni.

With ambitions of being a documentary filmmaker, Hoang is president of the Feminist Filmmaker Fellowship, an SF State club dedicated to supporting women and nonbinary filmmakers. She’s developed a variety of programming for the group, including resume-building workshops, movie nights and other themed socials.

Her student film “Our Stories: College from Home” captured the unique experiences of SF State students during the pandemic, telling stories of formerly incarcerated students, students facing homelessness and those dealing with loneliness. Hoang combined her concern for Asian American representation in film with the craft of filmmaking as a research assistant and post-production intern on SF State Asian American Studies Professor Valerie Soe’s film “Loveboat: Taiwan.” The documentary tells the story of a summer program for college-aged Taiwanese and Chinese students where romance often flourished.

Art Students’ Museum Dreams Take Flight at SFO

“Toward Amour-Propre” by Gwen Romer. 2020. Monoprint, ink on paper. Courtesy of the artist and Susan Belau/SF State.

 

Students in an upper-division San Francisco State University course have already achieved an artist’s lifelong dream: to have their work displayed in a museum. Thirty-eight works created in Associate Professor of Art Susan Belau’s monoprinting class will be on display at an SFO Museum exhibition called “Impressions in Isolation: Monoprints from SFSU” through June 29.

To create a monoprint, ink is applied to a surface and transferred onto paper —a technique that traditionally requires specialized equipment such as presses, rollers and special inks. Since Belau’s Intermediate Printmaking Workshop course was being taught remotely this semester, she had to decide which kinds of materials made sense for students to use at home. For example, she sent students nontoxic inks that could be cleaned with water, as well as other tools that could be shipped easily. Most students also had limited space at home, forcing them to work alone and on a smaller scale to fit their makeshift studios.

“Students learn so much by working in a shared space where they can see their classmates working at the same time,” Belau said, “so it takes a lot of emotional strength, stubbornness and determination to start something on your own without having a shared energy.”

Nevertheless, Belau’s students maintained their motivation and produced museum-caliber work — literally. SFO Museum presents rotating exhibitions on a wide variety of subjects and interactive play areas throughout the terminals of the San Francisco International Airport. “Impressions in Isolation” is featured in Harvey Milk Terminal 1, in a gallery dedicated to student art from Bay Area schools and nonprofit organizations.

Having work displayed in such a visible space is a major triumph for many undergraduates, Belau says. Art major Taima Dugan, one of Belau’s monoprinting students, agrees.

“Having my work on display [is] a big step for me in entering the art world and being seen by others,” Dugan said. “It made me feel like a more official artist.”

“Impressions in Isolation” is free and open to the public (and a plane ticket isn’t needed to visit it). Learn more on the SFO Museum website.

No 'Glitches': Student's Sci-Fi Thesis Film Garners Accolades After Graduation

“Glitches” cast and crew film a scene in a high school hallway.

 

While COVID-19 has created parallels with dystopian societies from science-fiction, it was real for Cinema major Rocio Camacho last year. The pandemic forced Camacho to complete her own science-fiction film remotely, far from cast, crew, instructors and campus editing labs.

Nevertheless, Camacho was able to complete her thesis film and graduate in spring 2020. “Glitches” centers on an 18-year-old, Ava, who unknowingly participates in an experiment that changes memory and behavior. When her boyfriend’s body begins to look like a hologram, she questions what is truly real in her relationship. “Glitches” received an Honorable Mention for Best Student Film at the 2021 Hollywood Independent Filmmaker Awards and Festival. It was also screened at Festival Angaelica and has been submitted to more film festivals.

Camacho became interested in the sci-fi genre in high school. Her original goal was to pursue theatre. However, after watching The Avengers series, she became increasingly curious of how superhero films were produced. After stepping foot onto San Francisco State University’s School of Cinema, Camacho realized that she wanted to create new worlds through screenwriting.

What were some challenges that you encountered when directing the film?

Trying to find crew was a challenge. In addition, making sure locations worked out had some challenges. There was one instance where I couldn’t get a permit, but luckily I talked to the person in charge of the building and it worked out. Of all, the weather was most challenging. Transportation and making sure everybody could arrive on set was another. However, I received a lot of support, and the team pushed each other forward.

Despite the pandemic, you persevered to submit “Glitches” to film festivals. What kept you going?

I worked so hard on this film, and it took me [nearly] a whole year to write it. I wanted to share it and for it to be seen. It was revised so many times, and the team had worked so hard.

Entering the film industry during the pandemic can be very difficult. How have you been doing? How has it been finding opportunities?

It took me a whole year to get back on set. I was able to get my first [production assistant] gig since graduation. When you ask for a job, they give you advice. When you ask for advice, they give you a job. It is really important to network and build relationships. Building genuine connections is key.

What is a piece of advice you have for future graduates?

It is going to take time, just keep focus on what you want to do, reach out to people (friends, alumni, people in the industry) and continue to network.

SF State Students Make Their Mark on Bay Area School Boards

James Aguilar (left) and Taylor Sims

All San Francisco State University students are interested in education, of course. That’s why they’re University students. But two Gators — James Aguilar and Taylor Sims — are taking their love for learning even further. They’re both helping set the course for others’ education as board members for their respective school districts.

Aguilar and Sims are among the youngest trustees ever for their local school districts. Although they each have their own unique story of how they were elected, they share a common goal: a desire to serve their communities.

Sims, who will graduate this semester with a B.A. in Sociology and a minor in Africana Studies, is a school board trustee in the town where she grew up: Pittsburg, California. As a trustee, she’s focused on understanding her community’s needs to help shape Pittsburg Unified School District’s vision, goals and policies. Although Sims was sworn into office just a few months ago, she has already set many goals and priorities. One of them is to provide more mental health resources to students.

“At a school board meeting, there were multiple students who expressed, especially during this time of COVID-19 and distance learning, that they’re having mental health issues,” she said. “There’s a lot going on in the world, so they need help to better focus in the classroom.”

Another priority for Sims is advocating for ethnic studies in K-12 education. This is vital for Pittsburg because it’s a diverse community, she says. “It’s important that we don’t erase history, we don’t whitewash other cultures’ histories and we actually celebrate and appreciate all of the cultures that are in Pittsburg,” Sims added.

Sims says that she learned a lot about her culture through her Africana Studies classes at SF State but wishes she received this type of education while she was going to school in Pittsburg. “We’re not taught that in high school, which is why we’re now pushing for ethnic studies to be implemented into Pittsburg schools,” she said.

James Aguilar

SF State Political Science junior Aguilar is also a school board trustee for the San Leandro Unified School District. He says community and student engagement are his priorities.

As a trustee, Aguilar listens to the communities he serves — virtually during the pandemic — and uses what he learns about their needs to shape how the district supports student learning. Recently, he and his colleagues have been doing that by surveying the community on reopening schools for in-person instruction.

“We’re going into our community and asking how we can navigate conversations on reopening,” said Aguilar. “With that, we created a reopening readiness dashboard that’s been helpful in creating the vision for what the future will look like.”

Another example of community engagement is when Aguilar reached out to his constituents following the storming of the U.S. Capitol in January. “It really has been a crucial time for us to come together and support our students, staff and the larger community. We want them to know that the district is with them,” Aguilar said. “We have to create a space for them to make change happen, to impact the future.” Engaging the community and students after a pivotal moment in U.S. history is critical to staying ahead as a district, he added.

“I plan on reaching out more often and really understanding what others are feeling at this time. More perspective will only help us,” Aguilar said. “In an ideal world, I want to know that everyone’s mentally OK because I know for sure I wasn’t at some points in the last year. A lot has happened. Stress and frustration is high.”

The students are also serving their communities in other elected or appointed positions. Aguilar currently serves as a board member for the SF State Foundation. Sims was recently elected as a California Assembly District 14 Democratic Party delegate.

Our Stories | College from Home

The inevitable effects of COVID-19 have taken their toll on the world, let alone SF State students. View their stories, embodying resilience, compassion and raw vulnerability, as seven students share their experiences navigating this unprecedented year. Despite housing insecurity, long-distance relationships and loneliness, they have discovered a sense of community and University resources to help them.

Resources mentioned

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Positive Vibes at KSFS Virtual Entertainment Festival

Daric Carvajal, BECA alumnus and former KSFS DJ, performs at the station’s Virtual Entertainment Festival.

 

“Virtual hugs from me!” Daric Carvajal could barely contain his laughter at the Virtual Entertainment Festival, a live-streamed event presented by student radio station KSFS on December 11 and December 12. In his song, the Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts alum boasted about his Zoom background and doing pushups while watching “Tiger King,” among other light-hearted observations about life quarantined in his bedroom.

It was a fitting message for the first-ever festival, spreading positive vibes amid a winter coronavirus surge and looming final exams. Streamed on Twitch, YouTube and Zoom, it featured 16 performers, including rappers, singers, a violinist, comedians and gamers.

As people spend more time at home in the pandemic, they are consuming more media. A Nielsen study found that Americans watched 75 percent more minutes streaming video during the second quarter of 2020 than in the same period the previous year. KSFS managers have noticed a notable spike in the station’s online listenership during the pandemic.

Festival host and KSFS Events Manager Mariah Peck, known as “Big Yaya” on the radio, says she hopes the festival can continue in the future.

“At the end of each set, [I was] blown away by how amazing all these artists were, and just being able to see their reaction to all of their love and support that they got,” said Peck, who graduated in December with a bachelor’s degree in BECA. “Not every artist was on every platform like I was, so I was watching all the comments on Twitch, YouTube as well as in Zoom. It was cool to see their reaction after their show was over. We all loved them and appreciated them for their time and effort and their talent.”

KSFS Music Director Arman Sedgwick-Billimoria performed twice in the festival, first as a solo artist and, later, for the closing performance, as Tribe Divine’s keyboardist.

He notes the festival created a welcoming environment for all the performers, allowing them to showcase their styles in genres that defied traditional definitions.

“[In this festival] those labeled constructs dissipated, and it was more of just being there to experience it and just to listen to each other’s music and inspire each other,” said Sedgwick-Billimoria, a BECA major.

Watch the entire Virtual Entertainment Festival on YouTube.

Honey, I Shrunk the Gallery! Student Space Goes Miniature in Coronavirus Era

The Mini-Martin Wong Gallery features student Gwyneth Keller’s solo exhibition “Surroundings.” Photo courtesy of Sharon E. Bliss.

As art schools worldwide create new ways to teach remotely and create online exhibitions, SF State’s Martin Wong Gallery decided to shrink. Early in the fall semester, School of Art staff built a three-dimensional, 1:8-scale model of the space and placed it inside the actual gallery, located in the Fine Arts Building. Exhibitions take place on the Martin Wong Gallery’s Instagram, using miniature art that students have custom-made to be installed in the scaled-down gallery.

When art spaces closed in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lecturer Kevin Chen noticed the Shelter in Place Gallery in Boston was thriving with a to-scale miniature space. SF State Fine Arts Gallery Director Sharon E. Bliss liked the idea so much that she reached out to Martin Wong Gallery Student Director Natasha Loewy, who agreed to help. They then recruited School of Art Instructional Support Technicians Gaelan H. Spor and Steven R. Garen to build a Mini-Martin Wong Gallery.

The actual Martin Wong Gallery space measures 22 feet by 24 feet. Spor and Garen created a detailed 30.5-inch by 33-inch version of the student-run gallery, down to the unusual shape of the room.

“We could have been more casual about it, but Gaelan and I are both pretty detailed [and] like specifics, so we measured every little thing that jutted out from the wall,” Garen said.

Spor added: “It is not regular in any way; there are so many weird things that pop out. Yeah, it is just bananas.”

Student Claire S. Burke featured her photography exhibition, “Negative Times,” in October. She has found inspiration in making art at a much smaller, limited scale. Instagram also makes it convenient for her friends and family to view her exhibitions.

“People are asking, ‘Oh, you have a show?’ Where can I see it?’ It’s a lot easier to be like, ‘Let me just DM it to you on Instagram,’” Burke said.

The Mini-Martin Wong Gallery will continue at least through the spring semester. Bliss, who oversees the Martin Wong Gallery, looks forward to continuing to help students with their miniature art.

“Anything I can do to keep the students engaged and keep them excited about their own work, and then again create these connections and these communities, I’m happy to do whatever I can,” she said.

Theatre Arts Students Build Community Through 'Water by the Spoonful'

Producing a play for live Zoom performance is undoubtedly unconventional. When students, faculty and staff from The School of Theatre and Dance came together for a main-stage production of Quiara Alegría Hudes’ Pulitzer Prize-winning “Water by the Spoonful,” they had to overcome technical difficulties before even getting to rehearsal. In the end, they have persevered despite dated computers, inconsistent Wi-Fi connections and unfamiliar software.

The show, about an Iraq War veteran and former addict struggling to reconnect with his mother, debuted November 5 and continues through November 14.

Stage manager Jasmine Murray, running the show from Georgia, said getting through obstacles has been one of her favorite parts about working on “Water by the Spoonful,” as well as learning live-production software such as NDI Tools. “I’m excited to add all of those skills to my resume!” she said.

Professor Rhonnie Washington, the play’s director, said producing a play online has a distinct advantage: unlimited rehearsal space. “All you have to do is create another virtual room and put actors in it,” he said. “I found that it was particularly useful sometimes, and it would be a lot more difficult to do that in the Creative Arts Building, where you have a limited amount of space.”

Actors have had to adapt to working solely online. Grace Romeu, who plays Yazmin Ortiz, says she’s had to “learn how to stay in place.”

“You’re confined to a little square, and you can’t do anything too crazy because then what if the audience doesn’t catch it? It’s harder to create the environment.”

Washington adds that the virtual format has helped build a sense of community among all involved.

“We’re all trying to learn how to do this virtual thing none of us know how to do,” he said. “I think that was something that caused us to bond — the fact that we’re all trying to figure it out and no one really knew concretely how it was supposed to work, so that was one of the things that really drew us together.”