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

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.


*Update: Advising for CHSS students is now offered through SF State’s Undergraduate Advising Center. 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.

Diverting fashion from landfill: Goodwill connects with Apparel Design & Merchandising students for clothing redesign

Giving damaged or unwanted clothes a second life brings significant benefits to the planet and our community. Currently, there is low awareness and very few options to repair, recover or reuse damaged garments, so they often end up in local landfills — an estimated 4,500 pounds per hour in San Francisco. Goodwill sees many valuable, damaged items through community donations and wants better options to get the damaged garments back into the community for reuse to support their sustainability goals and create local jobs. A collaborative local pilot project, with participation by students in the Apparel Design & Merchandising (ADM) program at San Francisco State University, is designing solutions to this problem. 

The Diverting Fashion from Landfill project called for fashion designers, fashion design students, innovators, manufacturers, menders, and tailors from across the state willing to take in unwanted clothing and textiles to repair or make new products. Funded by the San Francisco Department of the Environment (SFE) in partnership with the California Product Stewardship Council and Goodwill of the San Francisco Bay, the project aims to strengthen California’s sustainable efforts by increasing textile waste diversion and expanding opportunities for textile reuse, repair and renovation while encouraging greater awareness of the need for a circular textile economy. 

Garment cleaning and repairing are not new industries. Repurposing clothes for commercial resale is an emerging cottage industry in the Bay Area. Savvy Green Cleaners and Designing a Difference, a contract manufacturer founded by ADM alumna Rebecca Cahua, also participated in the pilot through garment cleaning and repair.  

“We plan to expand the strong partnerships developed through this project and continue to provide the knowledge and understanding of how to keep our textiles in use,” says ADM faculty member Ivana Markova. ADM students will continue to support the project in the coming semesters through their redesign of Goodwill donated garments.

Stop by LIB 121 on September 27 between 10 a.m. and noon to learn more about the project, see garments from the project, and meet community project collaborators. Come to be inspired to take action and understand the contributions you can make to support textile life extension.

Exhibition: Diverting Fashion from Landfill

The Diverting Fashion from Landfill project called for fashion designers, fashion design students, innovators, manufacturers, menders and tailors from across the state willing to take in unwanted clothing and textiles to repair or make new products. SF State Apparel Design & Merchandising (ADM) students have participated in this project.

Funded by the San Francisco Department of the Environment (SFE) in partnership with the California Product Stewardship Council and Goodwill of the San Francisco Bay, the project aims to strengthen California’s sustainable efforts by increasing textile waste diversion and expanding opportunities for textile reuse, repair and renovation while encouraging greater awareness of the need for a circular textile economy.

All are welcome to view garments from the repair pilot, which will be showcased at this event in the SF State campus Library Events Room, LIB 121, on September 27 from 10 a.m. to noon. ADM students will continue to support the project in the coming semesters through their redesign of Goodwill donated garments. Be inspired to take action and understand the contributions you can make to support textile life extension.

Read more about the project

Public Health student delegation attends in-person CSU Health Policy Conference

With support from CHSS, Associate Professor of Public Health David Rebanal accompanied a delegation of SF State undergraduate and graduate Public Health students to the California State University (CSU) Health Policy Conference.

The annual conference had to be canceled the past two years due to COVID-19.  The Northern California CSU programs met in-person at Cal State East Bay Campus on April 19, 2022, while Southern California CSU programs met at CSU Los Angeles. In addition to the SF State delegation, participants came from the CSU campuses of East Bay, Chico, Sacramento, Fresno, Stanislaus and Monterey Bay. The morning agenda consisted of a both sites hearing speakers remotely and in-person, which included remarks from California Health & Human Services Agency Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly and other public health and legislative officials.  This included discussion about a range of public health responses, from COVID-19 to youth mental health and racial health inequities. More than 200 CSU students and faculty attended the conference at each location, interacting with public health leaders, faculty, and students from around the region.

One SF State Public Health student, Victoria Lacuesta, reflected, “A highlight of the day was hearing from four public health professionals from different counties (Contra Costa, Alameda, San Mateo, and Santa Cruz). Knowing how they collaborate to solve issues in each county puts in a different level of working together to solve issues that we face today. It also tells you that making connections and building trust is key to success.”   

Another SF State student, Georgean Morado, said, “It was nice to hear their ideologies around community and how they work with the community. I also enjoyed hearing about how behavioral health is important and key for the future of public health.” 

Student attendees were Mikaela Beltran, Trinity Dubrow, Lia Duncan, Susana Carolina Gonzalez, Kohinoor Joshi, Victoria Lacuesta, Mireya Lopez, Georjean Morado, Nikkia Patterson, Nicolette Stanbridge and Willy Popoca Soto.