Public Administration graduate students successfully compete in national contest on wildfire crisis management

Pictured (left) SF State MPA students; (right) winning team “Code Red”

On March 4, four SF State Master of Public Administration (MPA) students joined fellow graduate students from all over the country to participate in a wildfire simulation competition sponsored by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA), the accrediting body for SF State’s flagship graduate program in public affairs, the MPA.

Stephen Kraemer, Forest Kerstetter, Sally Mei and Shae Hancock (MPA candidate and chief of operations with SF State’s University Enterprises) all joined national task forces charged with developing a fire mitigation plan for the fictitious town of Westmount. 

Each player was assigned a role on a task force (mayor, forest service ranger, water authority manger, environmental organization representative or a local citizen coalition representative). All the roles had well-developed personal and professional motivations, but players had to negotiate a plan that would work for the citizens of Westmount as a whole. 

The scenerio was complex, and included immersive details players had to take into account such as wind, temperature and seasons — as well as the socioeconomic differences between the neighborhoods in Westmount. Every decision that was made could change each character’s performance measurement in real time — there were angry constituents, and even a harsh note of rebuke from a player’s boss! The final work product was a policy brief outlining the decisions and mitigation plan, as well as a presentation to the other groups. While the rounds went on, the judges would come around asking questions about the group’s decision-making process, and the answers would count toward the final score. 

Overall, it was a rigorous day, but many of the students felt like they really were an intergovernmental task-force. There were roadblocks, setbacks and complicated situations that took everyone working together in order to deliver a service for the public good. SF State MPA candidate Shae Hancock was on the winning team, “Code Red,” which will have its presentation and policy brief submitted to a global competition later this year. 

Code Red Team:

  • David Arguelles, San Diego State University
  • Ashley Brittner Wells, University of Montana
  • Marisa McCarthy, University of San Francisco
  • Beth O’Leary, University of San Francisco
  • Shae Antonette Hancock, San Francisco State University 

SF State MPA Graduate Student Contingent:

  • Stephen Kraemer
  • Sally Mei
  • Forest Kerstetter
  • Shae Antonette Hancock

CHSS Undergraduate Research and Creative Works Showcase

Celebrating Inquiry and Innovation in Health, Community and Justice

The College of Health and Social Sciences invites undergraduate students to present their research, scholarship and creative works at the first annual CHSS Undergraduate Showcase, to be held at the Seven Hills Conference Center on Thursday, May 4 from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

All CHSS undergraduate students, regardless of their research experience, are encouraged to enter their projects. Student work from Fall 2022 or Spring 2023 is eligible, and 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 are welcome.

Given the size of the conference center, we will be limited to 70 projects for our first year. We will accept applications in the order that they are received until the showcase is full.

All students will receive a certificate of participation as well as constructive feedback from faculty and student peers. The program will include lunch as well as raffle prizes for student participants. This is a great opportunity to learn professional presentation skills and add to your resume!The CHSS Undergraduate Showcase application must be completed and submitted via the Qualtrics form by 5 p.m. on Monday, April 17, 2023. For any questions about the showcase or how to apply, please contact Dr. Jennifer Daubenmier at

Schedule of Events for May 4, 2023

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)

Apply Now to Participate

Student Application (Deadline: April 17, 2023)

Faculty RSVP (Deadline: April 20, 2023)

For graduate students interested in presenting their work, please consider applying to the Graduate Research and Creative Works Showcase on April 12, 2023.

Changing pathways for student success

Makayla Wai-Lan Scott with classmates in front of Terra Nova High School

Makayla Wai-Lan Scott (center) with classmates Kenya Salgado (left) and Citlalli Aguilar Velazquez (right) in front of Terra Nova High School, where they gave a presentation to high school students

A student finds personal meaning after finding the right major

San Francisco State University offers more than 100 undergraduate majors — and the opportunity to change majors if students change their career goals.

Makayla Wai-Lan Scott is a senior who switched her course of study from Pre-Nursing to Public Health. She had some anxiety about getting into the Nursing major when she was completing her prerequisites. To quell her anxiety, she looked at other majors in case she did not get into Nursing, and she found herself drawn to Public Health. Scott said of her decision to switch majors, “A Public Health alumna shared with me what she studied, and I thought this feels more aligned with me and what I wanted to do working as a nurse.”

The social justice aspect of public health appealed to Scott. As a nurse, she wanted to help with health equity for all patients. In public health, students get to look at problems through an intersectional lens in an effort to reach health equity. Adding more diversity in the public health field will result in better patient care for coming years. In this major, students learn to see problems as a whole — they look at all aspects of care in order to see how they intersect.

“It’s public health and we are going through a public health crisis,” Scott said. Starting the public health program during the pandemic was a unique experience. Public health was a driving factor of the pandemic and Scott felt that throughout her time at SF State. Scott feels the professors understand the work-life-health balance that has become so important these past few years. The projects that professors chose felt personal for her because of the pandemic and she found it easy to relate to the courses when the subject matter impacts everyday life.

Scott has had a positive experience since switching from Pre-Nursing to Public Health. She appreciates how professors make it clear that they care about the subjects they are teaching and make courses interactive. All of the professors in the Public Health major coordinate with each other to make each semester easier for their students; large assignments for different courses very rarely overlap. Professors, when possible, will communicate with each other to ensure major projects do not overlap and overwhelm students. The courses use a scaffolding structure for large assignments, where assignments are broken down for students to work on throughout the semester.

The internship SF State helped Scott get has helped prepare her for graduation. She has been working as an Alcohol and Drug intern at the Daly City Youth Health Center. Medical, mental, and support services are provided for teens and young adults at the Daly City Youth Health Center. Scott was a part of creating a curriculum for middle and high school students about vaping. This internship has been personal for her, “I saw a lot of my friends turn to vaping to cope despite knowing about the effects”. Scott feels like she is ready to enter the career field thanks to the support that her advisor and professors have given her.

Scott said, “I am grateful I went to SF State. I feel like I am actually cared about at SF State. That came from making the connections that I did in SOAR and with my advisors and people in the Public Health cohort.”

Makayla Wai-Lan Scott

Makayla Wai-Lan Scott

SSS & SOAR TRIO host First-Generation College Celebration Day

Pictured: First-Generation College Celebration Day Committee

San Francisco State University’s fourth First-Generation College Celebration Day, hosted jointly by Student Support Services (SSS) and Student Outreach and Academic Retention (SOAR) TRIO, was held on campus at Seven Hills on National First-Generation Day, November 8. Celebrations around the nation have been held on this day since 2017, when the Council for Opportunity in Education and the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators created this day to recognize and honor first-generation students and help “[transform] higher education to drive first-generation student success, effectively and equitably, across education, career, and life…encouraging [our] communities to understand better the systemic barriers plaguing higher education and the support necessary for you — our critical and resilient First-Generation students, to continue thriving.” 

The celebration began with SF State President Lynn Mahoney’s opening remarks. She commended students for taking the most important step to elect to enter higher education. She went on to acknowledge and thank the “village” represented by the community partners present at the celebration and share her parent’s experience being first-generation.

The celebration proceeded with a moment of silence and a land acknowledgment kindly provided by Professor and Chair of Counseling Rebecca Toporek. The event intentions and a brief meditation followed, bringing focus on the difficult task of being a student in recent times and impacted by a worldwide pandemic. SOAR TRIO director JC Gonzalez said, “We see and acknowledge how hard you’re trying to keep things working. And we know we’re not in a situation where it is easy for anyone.”  

Sherria Taylor, associate professor of Family & Community Sciences and director of Healing Circles in the College of Health & Social Sciences (CHSS), perfomed a phenomenal rendition of “God Bless the Child” as performed by Billie Holiday. She introduced the song with the powerful history and trailblazing work of Billie Holiday, “… through her pain and all of the things that she went through, even as a child and a Black woman during that time — which still resonates with many of us now … she used her voice to stand for something in her own special, beautiful way.” 

Following the song, a panel of first-generation students, staff and administrators was introduced, and panelists took turns offering their testimony of being a first-generation student, staff member and leader. This was followed by lunch and networking.

See event photos on Facebook.

TRIO first generation panel

First-Generation Panel

  • Damarcus Johnson, former SSS-TRIO student, B.A. in History, and former Educational Opportunity & Pathway Programs (EOPP) mentor
  • Jocelyn Bonilla, Biology major with concentration in Physiology
  • Al Huynh Phuong, SOAR trio alum, graduated class of 2021 with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and minors in Counseling and Asian American Studies
  • Zachary Young, former EOP Counselor at CSU East Bay, EOPP counselor at SF State, part of the first TRIO cohort in EOPP from 1997
  • Antonella Cortez, program coordinator for SSS TRIO, Student Affairs & Enrollment Management
  • Bibiana Arreola, interim director of Advisor Development and College Advisors 
  • Oscar Martin Gardea, director, EOPP

First-Generation College Celebration Day Committee

  • Antonella Cortez, program coordinator, SSS TRIO, EOPP
  • Jessica Duna, administrative support coordinator, SSS TRIO, EOPP
  • Juan Carlos Gonzalez, director SOAR TRIO, CHSS
  • June Parra, SOAR TRIO advising coordinator, CHSS

Community partners in attendance

  • Financial Aid
  • Tutoring and Academic Support Center 
  • Metro Academies Success Program
  • Asian American & Pacific Islander Retention Education Program
  • Institute for Civic &Community Engagement
  • Educational Opportunity & Pathways Program
  • Health Promotion & Wellness
  • Project Connect
  • SF SF Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity
  • Dream Resource Center
SSS TRIO is celebrating 25 years on campus, and SOAR TRIO is celebrating seven years on campus. The programs have had the honor and privilege of serving a combined 29 distinct cohorts of first-generation students at SF State over the years.

Students awaken potential with skills learned in academic success course

San Francisco State University is committed to helping students succeed — and students enrolled in an academic success course are learning that they can do just that.

“Every student has a profound capacity to give their gift and the world really needs their gifts,” said Adam Burke, a Holistic Health Studies professor in the Department of Recreation, Parks & Tourism. “One of our core gifts as humans is that we are problem solvers.”

Burke teaches “Holistic Health 200: Holistic Approaches to Academic Success,” a course focused on giving students the tools needed to succeed in college. Holistic Health Studies brings together strategies to help students thrive in college despite the new pressures they face.

Burke said that when we experience problems, it’s because we lack information, knowledge and understanding. The course uses a comprehensive problem-solving model to help students apply the skills they are learning to problems that are affecting their everyday success in school or life — by defining the problem, determining the goal, choosing a solution, implementing an action plan, evaluating and redesigning as needed.

Students choose a topic that they want to work on throughout the course. The most popular topics are emotional literacy and mental health, time management and organization, and wellness and health practices. Each person looks at their own personally-defined challenge and does background research to find the root cause of why they struggle. Known as the Kaizen model, this approach helps students find the most important cause of their problem. Every person who procrastinates can have a different reason for that procrastination. There is no one fix for procrastination — and that’s why background research is so important. According to Burke, the background research brings an “aha moment,” when students really start to make a personal connection with the course. Students leave the class with a toolkit of ways to succeed.

Burke published a study about his research on students’ success in the course, titled, “Learning problem solving to manage school-life challenges: The impact on student success in college.” He found that seniors, Pell-eligible students and first-generation students were all more likely to stay in school and graduate than students that did not take the course. The study showed there was a 10 percent higher retention rate for seniors, Pell-eligible and first-generation students when compared to their peers.

“Throughout the course there are a lot of strategies taught — stress management, time management, social skills, decision making, behavior change and study skills,” Burke said. “So people are getting a lot of tools that they have not been exposed to before.”

Holistic Health 200 also teaches important skills, such as working with a schedule and using a calendar. People are assumed to know those skills, but that’s not necessarily the case. Knowing these skills is part of the problem-solving model — and this course puts them into practice.

Burke believes that taking charge of educational success starts with realizing one’s potential. He said, “All of us have more potential to be and to do than we realize and a class like this seeks to help awaken people to their core capability to do more. To be more. To be who they were born to be.”

Adam Burke in classroom

Adam Burke

Students: Advisors can help you find your path to success

Advisors are an integral part of college success for all students, but not all students are aware of what advisors can offer them. Jennifer Kerwin and June Parra are advisors for the College of Health & Social Sciences (CHSS) at San Francisco State University. Kerwin is a general advisor for CHSS, while Parra is advising coordinator for the Student Outreach and Academic Retention (SOAR TRIO) program. As advisors, they specialize in amplifying student voices and helping students understand higher education.

“We can be a first point of contact and direct students based on what their questions are, what needs are happening,” Kerwin says. “There are so many different things that can happen to a student over a given semester that it is not really possible to have just a quick list to go to. Your advisor can be your quick list. That’s what we’re trained in.”

Being an advisor is more than just helping students choose classes that meet their degree requirements. Advisors are essential to helping students find their footing on campus and feel like they belong. Students can find a sense of community on campus through classes and student organizations.

Parra has a similar view on her role as an advisor. “When students come in and see me, it’s not just me giving information, it’s me teaching them to understand the policy, to navigate higher education, to navigate the resources. So my role as an advisor is to enrich students with knowledge and give them tools so that they can also navigate higher education themselves and be independent after they see me.”

Advisors are students’ first point of contact when they need access to resources. SF State has wide-ranging resources to help with many different aspects of students’ lives, but students aren’t always aware of what’s available. Advisors act as conduits for all the resources the University has to offer.

The two advisors concur that not knowing the resources available seems to be the biggest hurdle shared by students. When presented with the appropriate resources and action plan, students succeed far beyond what they imagine when coming into the University.

Students in the SOAR TRIO program are among those who frequently surpass their own expectations. The program provides support services and resources to low-income, first generation college students in health-science-related fields. SOAR TRIO gives students the opportunity to create personal relationships with their advisors by meeting at least four times a semester. The program has been fundamental to the improving graduation rates for such students. In fact, SOAR TRIO students have one of the highest graduation rates at SF State.

Kerwin and Parra agree that all students, regardless of whether they are in a program like SOAR TRIO, should speak with an advisor at least once a semester to receive help on what classes they need to stay on track for their degree. Students do not have to navigate the University alone. Advisors are always there to help provide resources and a road to success — students only need to go meet with them to find out.

For more information about advising, visit the Undergraduate Advising Center website.

Jennifer Kerwin

Jennifer Kerwin

June Parra

June Parra

Nursing student honored as ‘Hep B Hero’

Left to right (standing): 2022 Hep B Heroes honorees Horatio Jung, Gordon Mar, Jessica Ho, Molly Shannon and Dr. Rena Fox.
Lower: Hep B Free - San Francisco Bay Area Executive Director Richard So

San Francisco State University Nursing student Molly Shannon was honored by Hep B Free - San Francisco Bay Area at the 15th annual B-A-Hero Celebration and Fundraiser, held at the Intercontinental San Francisco on October 13. Each year, the the organization's Governance Council awards the B-A-Hero cape and trophy to individuals who have played an important part in the volunteer efforts in the previous year. 

Molly Shannon headshot

Shannon is working towards a Bachelor of Science in Nursing at SF State. She was elected to the school’s Nursing Student Association as a Hep B Ambassador, which gave her the opportunity to volunteer with SF Hep B Free for the last year. She has supported the organization at many events during the pandemic and worked to recruit other student nurses to volunteer when needed. Shannon is passionate about helping those in need, and it has been an honor for her to be able to give back to the community by spreading awareness about hepatitis B. She will be graduating this December and plans to continue to contribute to public health efforts here in the Bay Area throughout her career as a nurse. 

SF State students give fresh look to unwanted clothing through repair and redesign

SF State Apparel Design & Merchandising students working on their garment designs for the Goodwill pilot project.

Apparel Design & Merchandising students repurpose unsellable garments through University partnership

The city sends about 4,500 pounds of textiles to landfills every hour, according to the San Francisco Department of the Environment (SFE). That adds up to more than 39 million pounds of textile waste a year from San Francisco alone. The good news is that San Francisco State University students are lending their hands (and designs) to help reduce these daunting numbers. How? Through garment repair and redesign.

San Francisco State has formed partnerships with local organizations to give Apparel Design & Merchandising students a unique opportunity: using textiles from damaged and unwanted clothes donated to Goodwill to create new sellable pieces. This opportunity was made possible through a pilot project funded by SFE in partnership with the California Product Stewardship Council and Goodwill of the San Francisco Bay.

The project aims to strengthen California’s sustainability efforts by diverting textile waste from landfill. In turn, it also focuses on opportunities for textile reuse and renovation while bringing awareness to the need for upcycled clothing.

“The strong partnerships developed through this project highlight how a successful textile recovery and repair system supports local jobs and diverts textiles from the landfill,” said SF State Professor Emerita of Apparel Design & Merchandising Connie Ulasewicz, who helped facilitate the University’s part in this project. “It also provides the knowledge and understanding of how to keep our textiles in long-term use.”

During the Spring semester of 2022, under the guidance of Lecturer of Apparel Design & Merchandising Nancy Martin, several students initiated the pilot project. This fall, students enrolled in “Apparel Design II: Draping” continue to create these upcycled clothes under the guidance of Martin and Lecturer of Apparel Design & Merchandising Kamal Ragbotra.

Along the way, students will fully immerse themselves in the design process — from sketching to construction — while also learning the history and perspectives in the development of innovative apparel designs. Upon completion, garments will be returned to Goodwill to be sold online.

“Through this course, students will do much more than recycle old clothes by giving them a new redefined look,” Ragbotra said. “They’ll get a completely hands-on experience that also teaches students the importance of sustainable fashion and increasing the shelf life of garments.”

SF State senior London Deutsch says what she loves about the class focuses on freedom of expression, igniting her creativity. “It’s fun to be able have a more free, open-ended project,” said Deutsch, who is expected to graduate Spring 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in Apparel Design & Merchandising. “It was fun to sketch something out and envision how to make it from something that was falling apart to something that has our own personal flair.”

Deutsch also appreciates how Ragbotra personalizes her teaching based on skill level. “We are in an upper-level class at this point. A lot of us are juniors or seniors,” she said. “We’re pretty capable; we know how to do most of the tasks. I appreciate how she can recognize that.”

The students are expected to finish their garments later this semester. To learn more about the Apparel Design and Merchandising major, visit its web page.

Republished from SF State News

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

SF State student chapter of local government association wins contest for best event

The SF State student chapter of the International City and County Management Association (ICMA) won the association’s Best Chapter Event Contest for its “Breaking into Public Service” virtual panel.

Each year, the ICMA contest awards a select few ICMA student chapters with travel funds to attend the ICMA Annual Conference. Chapters present their most successful event to members of the ICMA Executive Board, highlighting topic, involvement and impact, with a special focus on innovation this year. The SF State chapter, which is advised by Associate Professor of Public Affairs & Civic Engagement Ernita Joaquin, was one of three student chapters to win the contest.

The SF State chapter’s virtual panel introduced students to the experiences of four public service panelists and allowed the 26 attendees to gain insights into career direction and tips for landing roles. SF State ICMA Chapter President Steven Lee moderated the panel, composed of Jim Schutz, city manager of San Rafael, California; Jessica Paran, Social Services Division director of Marin County, California; Aaron Zavala, senior management analyst for Petaluma, California and Ahmad Anderson, director of people and culture at SF JAZZ in California. The conversation ranged from concrete, technical tips for new graduates, to the acknowledgment of a changing post-pandemic workplace, to inspiring reflections on a core value of public administration.