University celebrates student research with college-wide showcases

Students at the CHSS Undergraduate Showcase present posters in Seven Hills Conference Center

Students across campus have been sharing their research at various student project showcases

As the academic year comes to a close, SF State’s colleges are celebrating the scholarship, research and creative activities of the University community with multiple student project showcases. In April and early May, undergraduate and graduate students from across campus shared their work through research posters, presentations and performances. Students, staff, faculty and community members saw everything from student-built prototypes of engineering projects to the exploration of evolution through dance to presentations on the history of global fashion.

This year, the Colleges of Health & Social Sciences (CHSS), Liberal & Creative Arts (LCA), Science & Engineering (CoSE) and Ethnic Studies all had research events. While the LCA and CoSE showcases have become annual campus traditions, CHSS’ Research & Creative Works Showcase (held at the Seven Hills Conference Center Thursday, May 4) was the College’s first. The College of Ethnic Studies Student Showcase, also on the newer side, was held Thursday, May 11, on the fifth floor of the Administration Building.

“When I found out about the CHSS Undergraduate Research & Creative Works Showcase I knew I had to participate. Research has been such a key component of my SF State experience,” said Nathan Burns, who is graduating this semester with a degree in Sociology and a minor in LGBTQ Studies. “For my senior seminar last semester I created ‘SURV(IO)LANCE,’ a textual and visual zine where I incorporated academic research and my personal experience as a queer, trans, disabled person to discuss surveillance. For the CHSS Showcase I was able to print a few copies of the zine to share with people in attendance. It was so exciting to be able to not only share my research with other campus members, but get to see just how much incredible work is being done across campus that I otherwise might not have heard about.”

Eduardo Hernandez, a senior Criminal Justice Studies major, also participated in the CHSS showcase. His work explores how the overlapping interests of the prison industrial complex, the U.S. military establishment and law enforcement lead to mass incarceration. He says that his project represents his solidarity with individuals who have been exploited in prisons.

“My research experience at SF State enabled my academic potential to be significantly developed by showcasing my research project for fellow peers, scholars and visitors. I am honored to have been recognized and have granted the privilege to participate in the CHSS Undergraduate Showcase with scholars at SF State. Presenting at the event, I experienced a great sense of joy and relief knowing nearly six months of research and preparation allowed me to represent SF State in its highest light possible: an incredible research facility in the SF Bay Area,” he said.


From story by SF State News

See photos from CHSS Showcase

Read abstracts from CHSS Showcase

“It was so exciting to be able to not only share my research with other campus members, but get to see just how much incredible work is being done across campus that I otherwise might not have heard about.”
— Nathan Burns, Sociology major

University professor calls for reform of U.S. child neglect laws

A new report highlights the detrimental discrepancies between child neglect laws and child development research

For children, being allowed to walk to a playground or to school by themselves is an exciting achievement — a sign they’re becoming “big kids.” Developmental scientists agree: They say such moments are critical milestones in a child’s development. Yet there are many child neglect laws in the United States that conflict with research about childhood and may actually interfere with development.

A new Social Policy Report paper by San Francisco State University Assistant Professor Rachel Flynn and collaborators explores this conflict and asks at what age can a child perform tasks without adult supervision. The answer is tricky, the authors explain, but reducing the answer to an age range (usually in preteens to early teens) can have serious consequences. It can lead to parents and guardians being unfairly prosecuted and be harmful for families and children. To complicate matters more, broad child neglect laws dramatically vary across the nation.

“I like to think [the laws are] well-intentioned and meant to keep kids safe. But the fact that there are places in the country where it is illegal for a child to be alone at 10 or 12 or babysit for their younger siblings … most developmental [scientists] would never guess that,” said Flynn, an assistant professor in the Department of Child & Adolescent Development at San Francisco State.

These child neglect laws often do not align with developmental science research, the authors explain. Previous research in the United States and internationally suggest children undergo a shift to taking on more responsibilities around 5 to 7 years. To participate in independent activities, children need to reach developmental milestones in physical, cognitive and social abilities, and most children achieve these skills by 6 or 7 through experiences. A child’s ability to achieve these milestones are also dependent on many factors, so guidelines based on age alone without context are not effective.

“I think the other really big thing is remembering to keep this in the social justice lens … ,” Flynn said. “We’re really trying to drive home the idea that these child neglect laws can impact anyone anywhere, but children of color are particularly impacted …  They’re more likely to have touch points with child protective services than white children as a result.”

Well-meaning but misplaced reports of child neglect due to lack of supervision can strain child protective systems that are intended to protect children. Flynn hopes everyone — policymakers, developmental science researchers, grade-school educators, pediatricians, parents and social work hotline moderators — look at the research paper’s recommendations to begin mitigating the negative impacts of some laws.

“Hotlines were meant to help children,” Flynn said. “They’re not helpful when every person calls because of every situation that they personally disagree with, for example a child walking their dog around the block alone. That clogs up resources and keeps the true neglect and abuse cases from getting the attention.”

Flynn was surprised to see the lack of developmental research on this topic but attributes this to a lack of awareness. There are psychologists, educational researchers and health researchers doing relevant research, but they don’t all talk together.

While her own research usually focuses on the media’s impact on children and how it affects play, Flynn plans to take the lessons of her recent paper into her advocacy work. She has already talked to some policy makers and hopes to help educate hotline workers and others.

“The question always is what age can kids be unsupervised? There’s no straightforward answer. It’s rooted in individual differences in context and cultures and variations,” Flynn said. “But we can provide some guidelines to really say that children are very capable at a very young age, and with experience children can be even more capable.”

Learn more about SF State’s Department of Child & Adolescent Development.

Republished from SF State News

CHSS Undergraduate Research & Creative Works Showcase

Undergraduate students fro the College of Health & Social Sciences will present their research, scholarship and creative works at the first annual CHSS Undergraduate Showcase. Presentation formats will include posters, models, dress forms, interactive displays and other appropriate formats. Both individual and group projects from capstone/culminating experience courses, independent studies or developed as class assignments will be included.


10:30 a.m.–11:30 a.m.
Student presenter check-in and set up

11:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.
Lunch for registered student presenters, faculty, and staff

12:30 p.m.–2 p.m.
Student showcase (open to the public)

SF State conducting leading-edge research into virtual reality, fitness

Student subjects Jamison Ly and Milad Ebadat take part in a Department of Kinesiology study into whether virtual reality games can help promote exercise.

Kinesiology Department undertakes first-in-the-nation study on simulated games and exercise

In the first study of its kind in the U.S., San Francisco State University’s Department of Kinesiology has taken the initial steps in establishing itself as a pioneer in the research of augmented exercise, which uses virtual reality games as part of a regular workout routine to promote physical fitness.

Since January, a team of researchers led by Professor Marialice Kern has been studying the metabolic energy expended while playing VR games.

“Nearly all virtual reality games involve some form of movement,” says Kern, the chair of the Department of Kinesiology. “Some are as simple as turning your head from left to right, but others require very vigorous movement, like dancing. What we wanted to know was: how much energy do people expend while playing VR games, and can it really be considered exercise?”

During the initial study, SF State graduate student Dulce Gomez led a team of undergraduate researchers and collected heart rate and oxygen consumption (which was then converted to energy expenditure data) from more than 40 subjects during the spring semester. Subjects performed activities such as boxing in a virtual ring (13-18 calories per minute), and played other games that included using a bow and arrow on an archery course or dodging colorful orbs to a musical beat (four to six calories/minute).

The team also collected metabolic data on a number of the most popular VR titles on the market. The observed heart rate and oxygen consumption levels suggest that the hundreds of thousands of gamers already playing in VR are likely moving enough to qualify as exercising at least part of the time. The research forms the foundation of Gomez’s master’s thesis, which she hopes to publish this fall.

And, in an additional step to help consumers better understand which games may have higher energy expenditures, SF State is collaborating with the newly established VR Institute of Health and Exercise. The Institute, founded and directed by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Aaron Stanton, is an independent industry group that collects ongoing metabolic observations to create VR exercise ratings. The ratings will be published online by the VR Institute to help gamers find content based on their metabolic equivalent to typical real-world exercises, like running or biking.

The Institute rates games into one of eight categories. Games can qualify as the metabolic equivalent (MET) of resting, walking, elliptical, tennis, rowing, biking, swimming, or sprinting. These ratings correspond to the industry standard of MET ratings equal to each activity.

According to Stanton, “It’s quite possible that at some point VR systems will be one of the most used pieces of exercise equipment people can buy without realizing it. It’s sort of the Trojan Horse of exercise.”

According to, which tracks game usage on the popular game platform Steam, gamers have spent more than 18 million hours combined playing VR in the last two years.

“We’re excited to see where this new field of research goes,” says Kern. “Exercise and health are so personalized to each individual I think these sorts of highly customizable and engaging tools may be very important to the future of how people stay healthy.”

SF State and Stanton will continue to gather data on more games using more equipment during the upcoming academic year. Researchers will look specifically at why some people experience motion sickness while playing virtual reality games.

Republished from SF State News

Webinar: Inclusionary and Emergency Housing Policies in California during the COVID-19 pandemic

AHRI Forum speakers

The Applied Housing Research Initiative (AHRI) at SF State announces the upcoming release of three working papers on the emergency housing policy response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the advancement of equity.

AHRI will also be hosting an upcoming Zoom webinar on Wednesday, October 5, 12-1 p.m. to discuss the findings of these papers. The papers were written by AHRI’s research team consisting of Professor Ayse Pamuk, Professor Jennifer Shea, Professor Laura Mamo, Professor XiaoHang Liu and AHRI research associate and MPA graduate student Temur Umarov (pictured above, left to right).

Liu’s working paper examines the association between a city’s inclusionary housing program, its vulnerability to COVID-19 and its change in racial residential segregation. Shea and Mamo analyze the results of a survey distributed to 482 local California governments to better understand the relationship among housing policy and three interrelated dimensions of equity goals and targets in areas of economics, race, and public health. Pamuk and Umarov provide an overview of the emergency housing policies implemented in California and a preliminary analysis of their reasons for implementation, effectiveness and potential issues. Additionally, three interactive mapping platforms created by Liu visualize COVID vulnerability, emergency housing policies, and racial residential segregation throughout California.

To read the working papers, explore the dashboards and register to attend the Zoom webinar, please visit the AHRI website

Wolin discusses efforts to address housing insecurity among college students

Jessica Wolin

Public Health Lecturer Jessica Wolin is part of a team researching the effectiveness of programs addressing homelessness among California college students. In a Kresge Foundation video posted June 29, she discusses College-Focused Rapid Rehousing, a model that incorporates community-based support services tailored to students.

“What’s unique about this model on our college campuses — both at the community college level and at the Cal State level — is we’re trying to go beyond the traditional approaches that we’re using to address student homelessness,” Wolin said. “The College-Focused Rapid Rehousing model provides students with a direct entry into permanent housing. ”

Problem-solving course helps boost student success, study finds

Adam Burke

A study of students who successfully completed an academic success course showed that the students benefited academically from what they learned. Professor of Recreation, Parks & Tourism and Holistic Health Studies Adam Burke published the findings in the journal Active Learning in Higher Education on July 24.

Colleges and universities have implemented a broad range of initiatives to support student success, including classroom-based approaches. Given the important role of teaching at SF State a novel general education academic success course was developed and tested. The course integrated a comprehensive problem-solving model into lectures and assignments. Students were taught the model along with relevant academic skills content. They then applied the model to a personal challenge affecting their success in school and life.

Using a matched cohort design, 826 course participants were compared with a campus-wide sample matched on key variables. Results showed that students who successfully completed the course achieved higher cumulative GPAs overall compared with matched peers. Highest GPAs for students who took the course as freshmen suggested a transfer of knowledge over time. Results also showed that the course significantly benefited students from historically at-risk populations. Lower SES, first generation, and underrepresented minority course participants earned more units, were more likely to remain in school or graduate, and graduate sooner. For example, first generation students earned more units (3 courses), were 10% more likely to still be in school, or 12% more likely to have graduated, and 16% more likely to have graduated sooner. Course participants also showed positive changes in academic self-efficacy and use of effective learning strategies.

The study shows that a well designed problem-solving course can help students, especially those who struggle academically, to more effectively meet the challenges of college and daily life.

Samanta publishes feminist appraisal of federal bureaucracy

Aritree Samanta

Aritree Samanta, assistant professor of Environmental Studies in the School of Public Affairs & Civic Engagement, recently published a co-authored article in the journal Perspectives on Public Management and Governance on “Gender Ramifications of a Weberian Bureaucracy: A Feminist Appraisal of the United States Department of Agriculture.”

In this article, Samanta and Shilpa Viswanath, assistant professor of public management at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY, take a critical feminist perspective to evaluate federal bureaucracies, in particular the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Viswanath and Samanta challenge the notion of a gender-neutral bureaucracy and argue that federal institutions, especially the USDA, are designed to serve “men” that lead to serious ramifications for policy design and provision of public services. This is the first critical feminist appraisal of the USDA, one of the largest federal bureaucracies. Viswanath and Samanta also include a description of decades of systemic discrimination and civil rights violations undertaken by the various USDA agencies based on gender, race, ethnicity and immigration.

Faculty-student research team publishes report on travelers and climate action

cover of report on travelers and climate

Aritree Samanta, assistant professor of Environmental Studies in the School of Public Affairs & Civic Engagement, was part of a team that recently published a report titled, “Frequent Travelers, Climate and What to Do: Travelers Share Their Thoughts.” The team was led by Paige Viren, executive director of Sustainable Hospitality Management at CSU Monterey Bay and former associate professor in SF State’s Department of Recreation, Parks & Tourism.

The report presents the results from a worldwide survey launched by the research team in partnership with the United Nations World Travel Organization (UNWTO) on the occasion of  World Environment Day in 2021. In the run-up to COP26 in Glasgow, 2021, tourism businesses, destinations and associations were invited to participate in this Global Survey of Climate Action in Tourism. Preliminary results informed the content of one of the panels organized by UNWTO at COP 26. 

A team of students have played an integral part in the project. One of Viren’s former graduate students (at East Carolina University), Daniel Pilgreen, who is now pursuing his Ph.D. in Recreation, Park & Tourism Sciences at Texas A&M, assisted with supervising three SF State undergraduate students: Mandalyn Kime and Brianna Canizales, both SF State Recreation, Parks & Tourism graduates, and Anya Zabaneh, a Biology major who minored in Recreation, Parks & Tourism.

The objective of this global survey is to better understand the ongoing climate action efforts in the tourism sector and identify front running initiatives and opportunities to accelerate climate action. It is implemented within the framework of the Sustainable Tourism Programme of the One Planet Network. Working as part of an interdisciplinary team of university and industry stakeholder, the project provided students with  the opportunity to contribute to a real-world problem and build relationships with faculty and industry for employment, professional networking, graduate school applications/research experience and professional skills. 

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Study examines early math and literacy skills as predictors of achievement in students in Kenya

Associate Professor Linda M. Platas and Lecturer Yasmin Sitabkhan of the Child and Adolescent Development Department coauthored an article, “School-entry predictors of lower primary reading and mathematics achievement in Kenya,” with colleagues in the journal Research in Comparative and International Education.

This paper shares the results of a large-scale longitudinal study in Kenya and examines to what extent school-entry early mathematics and literacy skills predict students’ later achievement. Controlling for socioeconomic status, intervention status, rural versus urban settings and parental literacy, the findings revealed that school-entry mathematics skills were significantly predictive of students’ end of Grade 2 mathematics and reading achievement in English and Kiswahili. Likewise, school-entry English early literacy skills predicted students’ end of Grade 2 mathematics and reading achievement in English and Kiswahili. As one of the first articles in this area of research in a low-income country, this article extends earlier research on links between elements of school readiness and later achievement in high-income countries.