May 23, 2003
One outstanding student from each academic college, the Liberal Studies program and the Division of Graduate Studies will be honored at SFSU's 102nd Commencement Saturday, May 24. They will receive the symbolic investiture of the hood on behalf of their fellow students. The University Web site is pleased to introduce these students to the campus community and friends of SFSU
Meet the Students: Liberal Studies Program | Division of Graduate Studies | Science and Engineering | Humanities | Ethnic Studies | Health and Human Services | Creative Arts | Education | Behavioral and Social Sciences | Business |
"Why does it rain? How do caterpillars become butterflies? And why do people get hiccups?" These are some of the questions 21-year-old Millbrae resident Corinna Low, Hood Recipient for the College of Liberal Studies, hopes to answer as an elementary-education teacher. Low, a fourth-generation Chinese-American born and raised in San Francisco, will be among the first cohort of students graduating from San Francisco State University's accelerated teacher-education program.
The Liberal Studies Integrated Teacher-Education Program (LSITE) is a rigorous degree program designed to meet the state's shortage of highly trained, quality elementary-education teachers. Students earn both a bachelor's degree and a teaching credential in four-and-a-half years versus the average six, and must maintain a 3.0 GPA. Low, the only student earning her degree with an emphasis on science, maintained a 3.96 GPA.
Low emphasized science because, she said, "It forms the answers to many of the questions children ask. Science is all around you, from the food you eat to the cars you ride in, to the sky above. If you can foster a child's natural inquiry into an engaging science curriculum, it becomes something they love, instead of loathe."
As a teenager who spent her free time tutoring children and volunteering as a teaching assistant, Low knew she wanted to be a teacher. "Teaching is something that gives me purpose in life," she said. "When you're handed that student, great responsibility comes along with it. You must teach them so much more than the subject matter, you must also teach them about life."
Low entered SFSU as a Presidential Scholar, the most distinguished academic award a University can bestow upon an entering undergraduate. She was attracted to the University's accelerated LSITE program because of its quality and, she said, because it would enable her to realize her dream sooner.
Chrisma Albandjar, 30, came to SFSU two years ago on a Fulbright scholarship from her native Indonesia to pursue a master's degree in radio and television.
An experienced reporter, producer and anchor for Metro Television -- Indonesia's equivalent of CNN -- Albandjar is committed to return to her home country. She hopes to implement social change through the television set -- via a job where she can make programming decisions and push for more shows with strong educational and social content.
Albandjar, who worked her way up from a subtitler in Indonesian television 10 years ago, also holds a bachelor's degree in international relations and an MBA in marketing.
SFSU's Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts Department has taught Albandjar a cultural perspective on the media.
"You see that media is not only an industry, it has a cultural influence," she said. "The media influence you in the way you think, the way you see the world, and, at the end, the way you behave."
In her spare time, Albandjar, a San Francisco resident, volunteers for the International Diplomacy Council, traveling to Bay Area middle schools to educate adolescents on Indonesian and Muslim culture. She also is not afraid to say that she watches six to seven hours of television a day.
Engineering student Nelly Lau, a first-generation Chinese American and resident of San Francisco’s Richmond District, will graduate with an academic Triple Crown. Not only is she this year’s student commencement speaker and Hood Recipient for the College of Science Engineering, but the 22-year-old community-service junkie also leaves the University with a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship in electrical engineering, one of only 46 awarded in the nation. Lau will use the fellowship, which pays full tuition and living expenses at the graduate school of her choice, to enter the doctoral program in electrical engineering at Stanford University. She said her hope is to return to SFSU as a professor and as a role model for other young women interested in science, particularly the male-dominated field of engineering.
For Lau, it seems, everything comes in threes. She is the oldest of three children, she has served as president of three honors societies and she is highly successful in the three realms that dominate her life: academia, leadership and, finally, community service. Beginning at age 10, when most kids her age were playing video games or cruising shopping malls, Lau was volunteering at her local library, teaching children to read. She didn’t tire of the novelty. Instead, it blossomed into a lifestyle. She has cleaned alleyways and planted trees in Chinatown, registered voters, fed the poor, cared for the elderly, collected books for needy children, and more. She even has volunteered at the City’s annual marathon, Bay to Breakers.
"Even though Nelly has accomplished a great deal in her life already and has held many leadership positions, she is also very humble," said Sung Hu, Associate Dean of the College of Science and Engineering. "She is a well-balanced, mature and motivated young woman."
Brandon Brown, 24, is a creative writing major who has enjoyed getting involved in the poetry scene on and off campus. He works part time in the Poetry Center, where he enjoys helping manage its nearly 50 years worth of archives of poetry readings. He also has been a teaching assistant in two classes and has mounted a monthly series of poetry readings in his living room.
Brown's own poetry, which he describes as "experimental," has been published in several literary journals including River King Poetry Supplement, Zaum, Firebush and Small Town Authors. Brown, who grew up in Kearney, Mo., will pursue a master of fine arts degree in creative writing at SFSU this fall. The highly prestigious, competitive program accepts only 10 percent of applicants and requires them to submit 15 to 20 writing samples.
"What's been most valuable for me in the Creative Writing Department is that there is a sense of a real supportive community, especially for experimental writers," he said. "Members of the faculty are open to new kinds of writing, and they are outstanding experimental poets themselves."
Brown, who lives in San Francisco, also enjoys studying Greek and Latin.
Valerie Rabino Villarta, the hood recipient for the College of Ethnic Studies, came to San Francisco State University with a running start and she hasn't slowed down since. While in high school in San Diego, Villarta earned a four-year college scholarship from the Jesse Owens Foundation for her achievements on the tennis court, in the classroom and with community organizations.
And now she graduates with two degrees -- one in Asian American Studies and the other in Speech and Communication Studies.
Along the way, Villarta has taken as many as 19 credit units a semester, earned induction into the Golden Key Honor Society, helped as a paraprofessional at Longfellow Elementary School in San Francisco, assisted the Safe Routes to School Program in Oakland, interned with the San Francisco Public Health Department and worked in the Filipino American community.
As a member of the Kappa Psi Epsilon sorority, she took it upon herself three years ago to help establish the sorority's academic scholarship.
Her reasons were simple. "I feel that it is very important that we recognize those who are doing well in school. Their hard work is inspiring and serves as a role model for others," said Villarta, who plans to either teach or work on policy issues facing education after graduation.
It’s the great outdoors where Ariana Schoellhorn feels most at peace. Kayaking on a river, climbing a rock, hiking a trail or snowboarding down a mountain with astonishing views of nature and all its beauty.
The great outdoors is also where Schoellhorn, who on Saturday earns a bachelor’s degree in recreation and leisure studies, sees as the best place to teach which is her ultimate professional goal. This type of experiential education allows students to learn through hands-on activities.
"I want a number of things from a career. I want to work with people and I want to make a difference in the world," said Schoellhorn, who lives in Sebastopol. "I want to work outside at least part time and I want adventure and flexibility in my job."
Schoellhorn, 22, is a true student leader who was selected as a Presidential Scholar -- the most distinguished academic award the University can bestow on an undergraduate -- when she entered SFSU in 1999 and she’s continued in this scholarly tradition as she graduates with a 3.8 grade point average.
She is the founder and current president of the "Recreation For Students" club and has been effective in encouraging students to participate in philanthropic activities. Students have visited senior centers, cleaned up the coast and taught youngsters how to surf. In addition, Schoellhorn has combined her strong belief in experiential education with community service projects such as tutoring students, working as a summer camp counselor, leading white water rafting trips and developing curriculum for youth camps.
After graduating from high school in the late 1980s, Frenchette Sherman, 32, worked for a real-estate development firm and was a computerized accountant for a check-cashing company. But soon after she rediscovered her childhood love: acting.
The theatre arts major has shined in roles in campus productions of "When Are You Comin' Back Red Ryder," "The Vagina Monologues" and a Japanese version of "A Christmas Carol."
The first member of her family to earn a college degree, Sherman has worked as many as three jobs to help support herself and her family while attending SFSU full time.
A resident of Richmond, Sherman hopes to land professional acting roles in film and theater. She is currently working on a role in an independent martial arts, science-fiction film.
Sherman said that acting provides her with an adrenaline rush and an opportunity to learn about people.
"You get to be a conduit for other spirits to channel through you," she said. "It gives you a chance to understand another person and convey the playwright's message to the audience.
"What keeps me doing it is the rush: the lights, audience and applause. It's exhilarating."
Five years ago Goenna Carstens left her home and family in Drelsdorf, Germany, a rural village of about 1,000 people just north of Hamburg, and embarked on a new life in the United States. It was in Germany that Carstens realized she wanted a career working with children. For several years she tutored a young boy with dyslexia and she later volunteered at an after-school program where she assisted children with learning challenges.
"I’ve always wanted to work with kids, and I think speech and language pathology is a wonderful field," said Carstens, 30, who lives in San Francisco. "Speech and communication is such an important aspect in our lives, and I look forward forward to helping children who have speech problems."
After taking classes at City College, she enrolled at SFSU in 2001 because of its outstanding communicative disorders program. In the fall she begins a master’s degree in speech pathology here at the University.
Each summer Carstens returns to Germany to work with a speech and language pathologist at a head trauma center. She’s involved in all aspects of the practice, including patient assessment. In fact, she’s been such a wonderful student that the clinic staff has encouraged her to finish her education so they could hire her. This summer Carstens again returns to the head trauma center where she will put in many hours working with patients. She has yet to decide if she will stay in the United States and teach or return to Germany where special education teachers are also in high demand.
When people told Tiffany Gabrielle Morales she wouldn't succeed, it made her try even harder and the results have been amazing. Now Morales plans to take her experiences of social inequality and turn them into a life-long commitment to social justice.
The daughter of immigrants from El Salvador, Morales is the first in her family to graduate from college and has done so with top honors. The sociology major is the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences' hood recipient and graduates with an overall 3.78 grade point average and a 4.0 in all her sociology classes. Of her eight semesters at SFSU, she has been on the Dean's List seven times.
But she is more than just an "A" student. She organized a workshop for other students applying to professional and graduate schools and worked with faculty on an innovative research project on sex education as well volunteering at Mission High School in an English as a Second Language class and working on the AIDS Hotline for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.
Morales plans to combine her background in sociology and interest in social justice to the field of law. She has decided to attend Hastings College of Law after also getting acceptances from law schools at UC Davis and the University of San Francisco. As a lawyer, Tiffany said, she will be committed to helping people become aware of their rights and opportunities in the area of social justice.
"I don't want to be an 'Ally McBeal' type of lawyer. I see myself working for an organization like the NAACP or the ACLU and addressing the social inequalities that exist," she said.
Marketing major Vendula Kobzinek, the 2003 Hood Recipient for the College of Business, gets an unusual present for her 22nd birthday -- her SFSU degree. It will be a day of double-celebrations for Vendula, who has not had much time for partying while earning a major GPA of 4.0 and gaining entry into the highly competitive business honor society, Beta Gamma Sigma. “I sacrificed almost every weekend in the last three years to get the GPA that I have,” she admits.
Vendula’s parents brought her to the United States from Czechoslovakia at age 4, so that she could have opportunities not available in their native country. She will be the first in her family to earn a 4-year college degree, and reports that her parents “couldn’t be any more proud.”
Vendula sets ambitious goals for herself and works extremely hard to achieve them. She has completed more units than required for graduation -- a total of 134 -- and earned her degree in four years, when the national norm is five years or more, with an overall GPA of 3.91, major GPA of 4.0. She accomplished most of this while working part-time. Even at the local Williams-Sonoma store she earned honors -- as employee of the month.
In the classroom, faculty describe her as a bright, conscientious and hard-working student who clearly stands out. In a managerial economics course, her professor was so impressed with the results of Vendula’s first exam that she was invited to serve as a class tutor. In another class, her insightful questions caught the attention of a guest speaker who stepped forward to serve as a mentor to Vendula.
Building on the retail experience Vendula has gained through part-time work, Vendula hopes to secure a position in marketing, merchandizing or sales for a specialty retail company. She will start her job search following a well-deserved vacation. Her goal is to one day achieve a leadership position that allows her to advance her interests in environmental protection and community-building.
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